How Turning 18 Means It is Time for an Estate Plan

In most states, when your child turns 18, it might be hard to imagine that little child who once needed you for everything has now become – overnight – an adult. Now your child is free to vote, marry, apply for a credit card, make medical and financial decisions, sign contracts, and live independently. No wonder the law calls this coming of age “emancipation.”

But if your adult child is hurt in an accident and needs somebody to make critical medical decisions, you cannot be the one to do that without your child having named you as an agent under an Advance Heath Care Directive, even if you’re still paying for your child’s health insurance. That’s not fair parents! In money matters, you will not be permitted access to your adult child’s bank accounts unless your child has made you agent under a Durable Power Attorney for Financial Purposes.

If that child is so injured that a conservator is needed, you would not automatically be that person. A Conservatorship proceeding would be required and those are expensive as well as time-consuming. The last thing a parent needs when caring for an ill child is to have to go to court to get the legal authority to act on their behalf. Fortunately, this nightmare situation can be avoided with proper estate planning.

Even if you’re paying for your child’s education, schools are not permitted to release educational records without a signed “FERPA” disclosure statement when your child reaches majority. See:

Becoming an adult is a major milestone. Your child’s 18th birthday would be a good time to explain about paying bills, getting a copy of the child’s social security card and birth certificate, living independently, registering to vote, and signing contracts to rent apartments, for example, or make major purchases like a car.

Remember to include the powers of attorney (Durable Power Attorney for Financial Purposes and an Advance Heath Care Directive) in that discussion. They are invaluable when your adult child needs you, at a stressful time when you do not want to hear any “no’s.” Powers of attorney could save you and your child delay, heartache, and expense.  A Will would also be prudent. When my daughters Sophia and Julia each turned 18, I created basic estate plan for them that consisted of a Will, Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Purposes and an Advance Directive. The resulting peace of mind was priceless for me and my wife despite all of the eye rolling and a slight degree of petulance.

We would be happy to help you or your child with the proper powers of attorney, as well as other planning needs that become more urgent as we grow older.  If you’d like to discuss your particular situation in a confidential setting, please schedule time with us to do so. Contact us today at 877-585-1885 or schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal matters.

Thanks for reading.

Christopher E. Botti, Esq., Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law

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