It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your twenty-something children are? If you’re like most people, you probably do not. After all, they’re young adults. They may have started college or a job or moved out of your house. You see them when you’re lucky – for a meal on holidays or maybe when their friends are in town. Still, you never stop worrying about them. In your mind, they are not fully fledged adults yet, but in the eyes of the law, they are, in fact, adults.
Most of us don’t start thinking about having a will until we get much older – when we’ve acquired enough money and assets that we want to make sure they go to the right people when we die. We often don’t think about the need to have someone manage our affairs if we become injured or incapacitated. This mindset is especially true for younger adults.
Not everyone over 18 must have a will. Most states have laws that allow parents to manage the assets of their young adult children if the unthinkable happens. Still, it seems to make sense for young people to draft a will and put two powers of attorney in place as part of their estate plan.
Why are these documents needed for those who are young? As kids graduate from high school and college, many take jobs far away from their parents. Most parents worry about their young adult children and want to helping them should something bad happen to them. In cases where powers of attorney are not in place, it’s entirely possible that parents may not be able to help their kids during emergency situations. For example, if a young adult (aged 18 or older) is in a car accident and has serious life-threatening conditions or quickly comes down with an unexpected illness and falls into a coma, parents may not be able to help make medical decisions or manage their affairs, let alone gain access to their young adult’s bank account. While state laws differ, some parents have been basically locked out from caring for their child in these situations.
Powers of attorney are simple yet powerful documents to have in place. They allow people whom you know and trust to act in your best interest in the event that you are not able to. It is often recommended that every adult have two powers of attorney in place – a durable power of attorney that grants your agent the ability to manage your financial affairs and carry on the things most of us have going on in our daily lives; and a health care power of attorney, which grants your agent the authority to represent you and speak to doctors or other health care providers about your health, your medical care and treatment. The health care power of attorney should be accompanied by a release form with regard to your medical records and long-term care wishes – a type of living will. By drafting these documents when you are well, you are identifying those people you trust to act on your behalf. Additionally, you are articulating your wishes, alleviating some of the stress that already exists in a situation where these documents are needed.
Are you a young adult? Do your parents, other family members, and friends a favor and put these powers of attorney in place. If you are a parent with young adult children, urge them to put these documents in place, for your piece of mind as well as their safety.