Denise Chan Gans, Senior Director, Office of Gift Planning

Estate planning for young adults

If you have completed your own estate plan documents, you have pondered a series of “what ifs.” You know that peace of mind comes from having your estate plans in order, and that your family or loved ones will know how to carry out your wishes if you become ill or die. What you may not know is that as a parent, you no longer have legal authority over your child’s financial or medical affairs once he or she turns 18.

What every parent should know

Due to privacy laws, your child’s status as an adult presents immediate changes in your legal rights to obtain his or her health, financial, education, or personal records, or to make decisions on his or her behalf. Without documents and tools in place that name you or another trusted family member or friend to act as an agent on his or her behalf, you may experience a delay or inability to access critical information. This can result in frustration, wasted time, and unnecessary expenses in an already emotionally charged or troubling situation.

Documents young adults should have

To avoid unexpected roadblocks, your adult child can take a proactive approach and name a trusted adult to act as an agent on his or her behalf in a variety of matters and circumstances. An estate planning attorney can help to assemble and maintain a basic set of estate planning documents, such as:

  • HIPAA release allows medical information to be released to an agent
  • Health care power of attorney allows an agent to make medical decisions
  • Living will provides instructions about medical treatment to be administered (or avoided) when an individual is deemed permanently incapacitated or terminally ill
  • Durable power of attorney allows an agent to make nonmedical decisions (legal or financial)
  • Basic will provides instructions for the disposal of assets after death

Once your child has these documents in place, encourage him or her to revisit them and update them during different life stages.

Start the discussion now

It’s never too early to have this conversation with your child. Learn about his or her wishes and share your own estate plans. Download our free estate planning kit.