Reaching the age of 18 is a milestone, considered to be the beginning of young adulthood. For those who are just turning 18, this is a time for declaring independence and taking control of your own life. What many 18-year-olds don’t realize is that one major way of taking control of your life is to begin your estate plan.
If you are an 18-year-old in Southeastern Massachusetts or a parent of someone who has reached this important age, this is the time to consult with the skilled estate planning attorneys of Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. We have an in-depth understanding of all state and federal laws pertaining to these matters and the skill set to help you protect your assets, prepare for contingencies, and take steps to realize your goals.
The steps we help our clients to take in estate planning are not meant only for middle-aged or older people; they include factors 18-year-olds are ready to take part in, including:
#1. To Learn to Take Financial Responsibility
At 18, most young adults are beginning to take financial responsibility seriously, even if they are not yet financially independent. While they may have worked odd jobs or had savings accounts as youngsters, 18 is the age when most begin to think of having checking accounts and credit cards and to start paying their own bills for certain purchases. Some will begin living on their own and signing rental agreements.
Part of taking financial responsibility involves making arrangements for unexpected occurrences, such as if you become unable to make your own financial decisions. This is when it is important to have a durable power of attorney, a document that designates a trustworthy person to take over your bank accounts, credit cards, investments, and even social media pages.
A durable power of attorney is not only invaluable after an incapacitating accident or medical event. It can also be helpful if a young person is out of the country, impaired by drugs or alcohol, mentally distressed or disoriented, or otherwise unable to access financial resources. Let’s face it, these situations don’t only happen to other people. It is best to consider possibilities, even ones that may seem far-fetched if you want to fully protect yourself and your family
#2. To Address Health Concerns
Though 18-year-olds are often thought of as aglow with vitality, we know that this is not always the case. It is wise for anyone who is an adult in the eyes of the government to have a health care proxy that assigns another responsible adult to make their medical decisions if they become unable to do so.
Suppose a young adult is in a car, boat, or skiing accident, or simply has a bad fall on a broken sidewalk. If they are unconscious, someone has to decide whether the recommended surgery is safe or whether off-label use of medication is worth the risk.
Also, once a person is considered to be an adult, privacy rules also change. HIPAA standards come into effect when a young person turns 18 (“the age of majority”), meaning that their medical records may be kept confidential, even from their parents, in spite of the fact that their parents may still be paying for their health care. This is why having an estate plan that includes signing a HIPAA form is essential. This document will give family members access to crucial medical data.
#3. To Deal with Mortality
Young people are forced to confront mortality in their daily lives. The media, fiction, and nonfiction they read, movies, and even video games they play push them to visualize the end of life. The death of beloved relatives and/or pets brings their awareness of death into sharp focus.
Though we make want to shield them from this reality, it cannot be done. After all, people of this age can enlist as soldiers. Doing things to take some control over death is the best any of us can do. In terms of estate planning, this is best done by creating a will, which allows you to make your wishes known after your death and to resolve some crucial issues.
In this document, you will be able to:
- Designate your beneficiaries, those who will receive your property after you die
- Name a guardian for your minor children (after all, some 18-year-olds are parents)
- Name a person to care for your pet after you pass
- Describe the kind of funeral or memorial you want
No matter how old you are, if you die intestate (without a will) the probate court will make all inheritance decisions according to the intestacy laws of Massachusetts, which may not agree with your wishes. Creating a will gives you the opportunity to exercise your rights and instruct your survivors how you want your death and remains handled.
Estate Planning Is an Ongoing Process
One important thing to remember is that estate planning is not a “one and done” venture. Your estate plan has room for all the changes life brings. Our capable estate planning attorneys will stay in touch with you on a regular basis to make sure that your estate plan keeps current with all major changes in your life. Get in touch with our team today.