It’s graduation season! Many parents will see their children graduate high school and leave the nest to attend college or pursue other life goals. This is an exciting and emotional time for any family, and with so much going on, Wills and Trusts planning probably won’t be in the front of your mind. However, Wills and Trusts planning should be a top priority for both you and your kids.
Once your kids turn 18 they become legal adults and many areas of their life that were under your control now become entirely their responsibility. If your kids don’t have the proper legal documents in place you could face a costly and traumatic ordeal if something happens to them.
For example, if your child were to get in a serious car accident that required hospitalization, you would no longer have the automatic authority to make decisions about their medical treatment or the ability to manage their financial affairs if they cannot. Without proper legal documentation you wouldn’t even be able to access your child’s medical records or bank accounts without a court order.
To ensure your family never gets stuck in an expensive and unnecessary court process, before your kids leave home, have a conversation about Wills and Trusts planning and make sure they sign the following three documents:
- Medical Power of Attorney
The first document your child needs is a Medical Power of Attorney. A Medical Power of Attorney is an advance healthcare directive that allows your child to grant you (or someone else) the immediate legal authority to make healthcare decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated and are unable to make these decisions themselves. For example, if your child is incapacitated due to something like a car accident or falls into a coma due to a debilitatiing illness like Covid-19, a Medial Power of Attorney would allow you to make decisions about yoru child’s medical treatment.
Without a Medical Power of Attorney in place, you would have to petition the court to become your child’s legal guardian. Even though a parent is typically the court’s first choice for a guardian, the guardianship process can be slow and expensive– and in medical emergencies, time is of the essence. A properly drafted Medical Power of Attorney will also include a signed HIPPA authorization so you can immediately access your child’s medical records to make an informed decision about their treatment.
- Living Will
While a Medical Power of Attorney allows you to make healthcare decisions on your child’s behalf during their incapacity, a living will is an advance directive that provides specific guidance about these decisions, particularly at the end of life. For example, a Living Will allows your child to advise if and when they would like to be removed from life support if they should ever need it. Additionally, a living will can also include instructions about who they would like to visit them in the hospital and even their dietary preference, like if they prefer vegan food or to take certain supplements.
Although you can find a variety of Medical Power of Attorney, Living Will, and other advance directive documents online, your child has unique needs and wishes that can’t be anticipated by these online fill-in-the-blank documents. Because of this, we recommend you and your child work with Legal Journeys to create– or at the very least, review– their advance directives.
- Durable Financial Power of Attorney
Should your child become incapacitated, you may also need to be able to manage their finances and legal affairs. This requires your child to grant you Durable Financial Power of Attorney; this gives you the authority to manage their financial and legal matters for things such as paying their tuition, applying for student loans, paying their rent, negotiating (or re-negotiating) a lease, managing their bank accounts, and/or collecting government benefits. Without this document, you will have to petition the court for this authority.
Start Adulthood on the Right Track
Before your kids leave the nest, discuss the value of Wills and Trusts planning and make sure they have all the proper legal documents in place. By doing so, you are helping your family avoid a costly and emotional court process, while also demonstrating the importance of good financial and legal stewardship.
At Legal Journeys, we will not only help you draft these documents, we can also facilitate a family meeting to discuss the importance of Wills and Trusts planning with your kids. From there, we hope this will begin a life-long relationship with your children, as they start on their journey to adulthood and beyond. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.
This article is a service of Legal Journeys, Personal Family Lawyer®. We do not just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.