In the summer of 2015, I was 18 years old and about to start a new journey at Florida State University. I had a million things on my mind, from my new dorm room to navigating a big campus. Out of the many things I thought I needed to do before August, estate planning was not on my radar.
When my parents asked me to sign a few legal documents, I was puzzled. I figured that as a college student, my parents would still have access to any information related to me. And at 18, I didn’t have any assets or a large bank account. Of course, this was well before I went to law school and the first time I had thought about estate planning. To my surprise, they explained that if something were to happen, they would need authorization to access my medical information. Knowing that my parents were authorized to access my information and act on my behalf made starting this new chapter a little less daunting. Here are some common questions and myths about estate planning for young adults:
My son is on my insurance, so I automatically have access to his medical information.
Unfortunately, this is not entirely true. Just because your son is on your health insurance does not mean you will have access to his medical information. The doctor’s office or hospital is only allowed to disclose information to those individuals that the patient has authorized. You may be able to get some information from the insurance company but it could be limited and there may be a delay.
I just turned 18 and am still in high school. I am too young to worry about estate planning.
Although you are still in high school, you are now considered a legal adult. Regardless of age or income, it is important that you have the right documents in place. Without a legal guardian, you now have to affirmatively appoint those individuals you want making decisions for you, in the event that you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to communicate your wishes. Failing to do so can cost a lot of time and money for your family, and require court involvement in the event of an emergency. Also, in this age of social media, it is wise to consider who you would like to be in charge of handling your social media accounts or other assets if you were to pass away.
My child just turned 18 and will be heading to college in the fall, what do I need to do?
For a young adult going to college, we recommend having the following documents prepared, at a minimum: Financial Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, and HIPAA Authorization Form. During the client meeting, we can also discuss additional tools that might be appropriate for the next chapter.
My daughter is going to be really busy and needs me to sign her lease for her. I can do that, right?
If your daughter is 18 years or older, she is a legal adult, and absent a Financial Power of Attorney granting you the authority to sign on her behalf, she will have to sign the lease herself.
How old do you need to be to have an estate plan?
Everyone needs estate planning, no matter their age, and everyone age 18 or older needs his or her own estate plan. In fact, if they do not create their own plan, the laws of intestacy in their state have written a plan for them--which may or may not be in line with their personal wishes. Of course, estate plans vary immensely depending on goals, finances, family situation, and domicile (where you live). There is no one-size-fits-all estate plan. If you are wondering whether you need an estate plan, you’re asking the right question and, yes, you do.
When do my children need to get their own estate plan?
Once a child attains the age of 18, she is legally an adult and must make her own health care, financial, and legal decisions. Without legal documentation, parents are powerless to act on behalf of their adult children.
Of course, an 18-year-old’s estate plan is very different from a 48-year-old’s estate plan because life, assets, goals, and family situations evolve over 30 years, [but some basics are the same].
How much money do I need before an estate plan is necessary?
You don’t need to be as wealthy as Mark Zuckerberg or Oprah Winfrey to establish an estate plan. In fact, you don’t need significant financial assets to have an estate plan. What you do need is one of the following: someone you love, the desire to control your life decisions and finances, the desire to maintain privacy, or the wish to avoid court interference.
To help you think this through, here are non-monetary reasons to have an estate plan in place: an estate plan empowers your trusted helpers to make healthcare decisions and manage your day-to-day affairs if you’re not able to; appoints guardians for minor children and pets; and avoids medical heroics through a living will.