It’s official. Last week, my days as a legal guardian came to an end when my younger son Devon celebrated his 18th birthday.
Any parent can relate to my need for some extra oxygen just to share this news, let alone believe it myself. It’s also hard to accept that it’s been 19 months since my eldest son already reached adulthood. At the time, I used the milestone to remind parents how important it is to ensure that their adult children’s solid estate-planning documents are in proper order as they rush forward into the rest of their lives. As a matter of fact, the reminder remains so important, that I’d like to commemorate Devon’s birthday by repurposing our earlier post, freshened up just for him. If it inspires even one family to act on their children’s estate-planning needs, I’ll consider my parenting work to be complete. Okay, not really, but we’ll go with that.
Basic Estate-Planning Documents for Adult Children
Mercifully, it’s rare that unspeakable tragedies occur when our children leave home for college or career. But they do happen. My eldest son’s passion for rugby and my youngest son’s ambitions to share his musical talents with the world – literally, in the form of international travel – leaves a mother both proud and worried about what the future has in store for us. We certainly hope we’ll never need to use our sons’ health care powers of attorney, but we’re glad they’re in place … just in case.
Between today’s stringent healthcare privacy regulations and the ever-present potential for confusion and miscommunication during a crisis, it’s much better to have these and other proper documents in order well in advance of any need to access medical records or exercise emergency decision-making capabilities. As described in this piece, “3 Critical Documents Every College Freshman needs,” planning for healthcare and other support systems becomes especially important if your adult child may be traveling abroad, where laws and parental rights vary.
That’s why it’s important to have a discussion with your adult child during normal times. Explain the benefits of executing these important documents and legally naming you (their parents) to make financial and medical decisions if they are unable to do so. Once your adult children are ready to do their own planning, they can designate their own decision-makers.
Overall Estate Planning (Wills and Trusts)
How do you get started? First, evaluate your own estate planning. Are your own plans in place? Do they need to be updated or reviewed? If so, this would be a good time to contact an estate-planning attorney to discuss your own as well as your child’s planning needs in unison. Costs can vary, but expect stand-alone child’s document preparation to cost in the range of a few hundred dollars. While you can purchase estate-planning software and do it yourself, we recommend working with an estate-planning attorney to ensure that the plan fits your needs and conforms to all current laws in your state.
Advance Medical Directive
Many states have now combined the health care power of attorney and living will documents into the advance medical directive. The advance medical directive appoints a health care proxy, which is a fancy name for the individual who will make decisions about your health care if you are unable to make decisions on your own. The document also contains instructions on what you want to happen should you require artificial life support.
Durable Power of Attorney
A power of attorney names a person who can make decisions about your money and property if you are unable to make them yourself. In many states, a power of attorney document becomes invalid if you become incompetent or incapacitated – which is exactly when you need someone to make decisions on your behalf. A durable power of attorney, however, remains valid should you become incompetent or incapacitated.
Similar to a will and an advance medical directive, a durable power of attorney can be composed without a lawyer, but minutiae such as how the document needs to be recorded or notarized could result in it being invalid when put into use. Again, we recommend working with an estate-planning attorney.
Life’s Risks and Rewards
So, here’s to you, my beautiful boys, now men. To my readers, I recommend that you keep your eyes peeled for those “Devon Cupo in Concert” posters, and catch his performance early before he goes global. To Devon and Dominic, I hope you’ll go after your life’s goals, whatever they may be, with your usual unassailable energy. But do me a favor, take good care of yourselves along the way.
SAGE Serendipity: For a glimpse of Devon’s early “musical” (film making) talents, you can revisit his Sprechen Sie Awesome Rockumentary. Remember, you saw it here first.