Most 18-year-olds have a lot on their mind, but estate planning in is typically not one of those things. More likely, you are worried about finding a good job or starting college or any of the other typical issues that come with entry into adulthood. Chances are, you don't have a huge amount of wealth accumulated and haven't given "estate planning" a second thought. And why would you?
Well, here's a reason.
Do you know what would happen if you needed medical attention and weren't able to make decisions for yourself? Who would be in charge of making those choices? It's possible that your parents would be given that responsibility, but it's not guaranteed. For some young people, it would simply make sense that your parents would be stepping in to fill that role. Maybe you're still on their insurance policy or you are considered a dependant.
Whether or not these things are true, they don't guarantee who will make your medical decisions. It's quite possible that the courts would have to get involved to grant approval to whomever they saw fit. This may very well be your parents, but it may not. And it's worth noting that for many people in that age range, parents would not be the individual's first choice. Estate planning allows you to legally make your wishes known for through what is called a healthcare proxy or a medical power of attorney.
Along these same lines, an estate planning lawyer will help a young adult to create a living will.
Again, if you are somehow incapacitated and can't make decisions for yourself, having your choices outlined in a legal document is the best way to make sure they are met. A living will or advance directive will include your views on what types of treatment you do and do not want, including end-of-life decisions, such as when you would want life-sustaining measures withdrawn.
All of this may seem like a far-fetched effort to get you running to an estate planning lawyer. After all, you're young and healthy, right? Consider, however, that the number one cause of death for those in their teens and twenties is "unintentional injury," and those aged 15-24 are at the highest risk.
Putting together these documents doesn't have to be a long, drawn-out process. Rather, they are a routine aspect of estate planning that can be done relatively quickly. The difficulty that they can avoid later on down the road makes it more than reasonable to put in the little bit of effort now, "just in case." When it comes to estate planning for young adults, include each of the following, and talk with a will lawyer about whether or not anything else is appropriate for your situation:
• Medical Directive (Living Will)
• Healthcare Proxy (Medical Power of Attorney or Directive)
• Financial Power of Attorney
Darlynn Morgan is an estate planning attorney at Morgan Law Group in Orange County, California. Darlynn makes it easy for your family to talk about and plan for tough subjects like money, death and taxes. Visit our website for more resources on how to make sure your family wouldn't have a mess on their hands if the "unthinkable" happens to you.