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Estate Planning When Your Child Turns 18

Your child has grown up, finally reaching age 18. For your child’s entire life you were the one making doctors appointments and paying the bills. But, upon reaching age 18, this all changes. Well, at least, legally. Legally, you now have no authority. Certainly, you still might be the one reminding them to save money or to get a check up, but legally force them to.

Though it might be the last thing on their mind, doing some basic Estate Planning when your child reaches age 18 is important. Although its painful to think about, accidents can happen. If your child is injured, someone needs the authority to make medical decisions and to work with insurance companies. Though their language may vary from person-to-person and your child’s circumstances, the documents described below are the most common and address the majority of cases.

What Happens If Your 18 Year Old Child Does Not Have an Estate Plan?

Guardianship: If your child falls ill and becomes incapacitated someone must step in to make financial and medical decisions. Petitioning the court for a Guardian becomes necessary if your child has not executed a Power of Attorney giving an Agent authority to act financially, or a Health Care Power of Attorney giving an Agent authority to make medical decisions.

Intestacy, Having No will at Death: If your child has no Will, then assets pass under the State’s plan. The Intestacy Rules do not take your child’s wishes into consideration. A Will allows your child to craft a plan that reflects his or her real desires and pick an executor.

Why It’s Important Your 18 Year Old Has a Will

No matter how much or little your children own, a Will allows them to voice their wishes. Who gets their assets? Who serves as Executor? And, who makes burial and funeral decisions? Documenting these decisions becomes especially important if the child’s parents are no longer married. Without a Will, each parent has an equal right to control the estate, which can lead to avoidable conflict. Further, the Will can address the child’s wishes when there is a significant other who the family might otherwise exclude.

If your child becomes incapacitated, a Durable General Power of Attorney appoints the person or persons that manages their assets. Without this document, the family is forced to file for Guardianship. The court is free to select the Guardian, who might not be a family member.

In a Medical Proxy (also know as a Medical Power of Attorney) and a Living Will your child chooses the person who will make medical decisions. If your child is ever unable to make decisions, the surrogate steps in. This person selects doctors and authorizes or refuses treatment. Your child should pick someone who will carry out the child’s wishes, not impose the surrogates own beliefs.

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If you have any questions about estate planning for your recently legal adult child or any other estate planning topics, feel free to contact us to schedule a free consultation. For more than two decades Klenk Law has focused only on Estate Law. We’ve seen it all, and this experience allows us to explain complex estate planning techniques clearly and concisely. We make it easy for you to understand estate planning so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family.

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