An article a few months ago Forbes.com outlined something I have been suggesting to clients for years. There are two estate planning documents that everyone needs, from the day they turn 18 to the day they die. Those documents are a power of attorney for legal and financial matters, and a health care directive.
The article, by Deborah L. Jacobs, called Two Documents Every 18-Year-Old Should Sign reiterates what must parents know intellectually, but don’t know emotionally, that when their 18 year old heads off to college, they are legally their own person. The fact that you pay tuition does not give you the right to get information regarding their health care or financial life, much less to make decisions for them if they are unable to do so for themselves.
The article points out that this kind of precaution is needed as “[a]ccidents are the leading cause of death for young adults, and a quarter-million Americans between 18 and 25 are hospitalized with nonlethal injuries each year.”
We have a handful of clients each year who listen to this suggestion and bring their college bound kid in to our office to do the power of attorney and medical directive forms. Do the kids always understand the import of what they are signing?
Are they always as engaged as they should be in looking at what rights they are granting their parents and under what conditions?
But they are starting off their adult life with an understanding that this legal and financial separation with their parents is a real thing, and that they need to start having the kind of legal documents and protections that many of us never thought of until we had kids of our own.
I encourage you all to read Deborah Jacobs column, and to consider calling to discuss getting these documents done for your kids when they come home for winter break, or before they leave next August.
To help with that, we have created an estate planning questionnaire just for college students and young adults. It can be found here. Sit down with your newly minted adult, and help them look over the questionnaire as they start to change the way they are thinking about themselves too.