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An Unexpected Gift For The Young Adult In Your Life: A Graduation Surprise

So, it’s that time of year again, graduation time!  Teenagers are becoming adults, leaving high school behind and getting ready to venture off to college.  College students are leaving the carefree years of college to begin their “real” lives and head into the working world.

Many parents provide their graduating seniors with gifts of some sort, from cars and vacation trips, to cash and advice.  But there is one possible gift that too often gets overlooked by parents and children alike… their first estate plan.

Why does such a young adult need an estate plan?  Estate planning is not just for determining who gets what when someone dies, there are a number of other reasons that every adult, regardless of age or wealth should have an estate plan.

If the young adult in your life becomes unexpectedly ill or injured and temporarily cannot handle his or her own financial affairs or make his or her own medical decisions, who will help?

Now that they’re adults, a parent cannot make those decisions without the proper legal authority.  Without any advance planning that legal authority must come from the Courts.  The Court proceedings to allow an individual to act on another’s behalf (generally, proceedings for Guardianship and/or Conservatorship) are costly, take valuable time, and can place many restrictions on the responsible party appointed by the Court.

However, there is an alternative… plan ahead.

With a basic Trust document and/or a properly prepared Power of Attorney your son or daughter can appoint the person or persons they trust to make financial and personal decisions for them in the event of injury or illness.

By executing an Advance Medical Directive and Health Care Power of Attorney your son or daughter can ensure that the people they love and trust can make important medical decisions for them and, in worst case scenarios, follow their wishes concerning life support measures.

Now, if the unthinkable should come to pass, and your young adult should die prematurely, what will happen then?  Without a Last Will and Testament or Trust, your child’s assets will pass according to the laws of the state where they lived.  It doesn’t matter if those laws do not match what your child or you would have wanted, and in some cases may be far from it.

So, now that your child is a young adult, take one more step to send them out into the world as prepared as possible.  You taught them to use a bank account, balance a check book, save some money, use credit cards responsibly, and probably even a little about insurance and a myriad of other “real life” topics.  Take them to talk to an attorney about preparing their first set of basic estate planning documents.  Such a plan should likely include a Last Will and Testament (and possibly a Trust), a Power of Attorney, and an Advance Medical Directive and Health Care Power of Attorney.  [For more information on what should be included in a basic estate plan see my article on the Essentials of Estate Planning.]

Hopefully it will be a long time before any of these documents must be used, but having them will help protect your young adult and provide you with some peace of mind.  So, it’s not just a gift for your graduate, it’s also a gift for you, the parent.

The Law Office of Richard W. Hartman III, Attorney and Counselor at Law, PLLC can help get your graduate off to a strong start.  Contact the firm today to schedule an initial consultation for yourself or your graduate.

Richard W. Hartman III, Esquire

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