June 22

Don’t Let Your Kids Leave Home Without Signing These 3 Documents

As we head into summer, many parents will see their children graduate from high school and prepare to leave home to attend college or pursue other life goals. This can be an exciting and emotional time, and with so much going on, estate planning probably isn’t at the front of your (or their) mind right now.   

However, estate planning should actually be a top priority for both you and your kids.

Here’s why: Once your kids turn 18, they become legal adults, and many areas of their life that were once under your control will become entirely their responsibility, whether you take action or not. To this end, if your kids don’t have the proper legal documents in place, you could face a costly and traumatic ordeal should something happen to them. 

If your child were to get into a serious car accident and require hospitalization, for example, you would no longer have the automatic authority to make decisions about his or her medical treatment or the ability to manage their financial affairs. Without legal documentation, you wouldn’t even be able to access your child’s medical records or bank accounts without a court order.

1. Medical Power Of Attorney

The first document your child needs is a medical power of attorney. A medical power of attorney is an advance healthcare directive that allows your child to grant you (or someone else) the immediate legal authority to make healthcare decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated and are unable to make these decisions themselves.

Without a medical power of attorney in place, if your child suffers a severe accident or illness that requires hospitalization and you need to access their medical records to make decisions about their treatment, you’d have to petition the court to become their legal guardian. While a parent is typically the court’s first choice for a guardian, the guardianship process can be slow and expensive—and in medical emergencies, time is of the essence.

2. Living Will

While a medical power of attorney allows you to make healthcare decisions on your child’s behalf during their incapacity, a living will is an advance directive that provides specific guidance about these decisions, particularly at the end of life. For example, a living will allows your child to advise if and when they want life support removed should they ever require it.

3. Durable Financial Power of Attorney

Should your child become incapacitated, you may also need the ability to access and manage their finances and legal affairs, and this requires your child to grant you durable financial power of attorney.

Durable financial power of attorney gives you the authority to manage their financial and legal matters, such as paying their tuition, applying for student loans, paying their rent, negotiating (or re-negotiating) a lease, managing their bank accounts, and collecting government benefits if necessary. Without this document, you’ll have to petition the court for this authority.

Start Adulthood on the Right Track

Before your kids leave the nest, discuss the value of proper planning and make sure they have the right legal documents in place. By doing so, you are helping your family avoid a costly and emotional court process, while also demonstrating the importance of good financial and legal stewardship, which sets your kids on the right track from the very start.

 At Davidek Law Firm, PLLC, we will not only help you get these documents in order, but we can also facilitate a family meeting to discuss the importance of estate planning with your kids. From there, we hope this will begin a life-long relationship with your children, as they start on their journey into adulthood and beyond.

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