Does Your Teenager Need an Estate Plan?

High school graduations (if you can call them that this year) are a time to think about the future of your children.  And some high school graduates may actually be heading off to a college campus, away from home, this fall.

It may be hard to believe that your 18-year-old is now, legally, an adult. While you may be used to doing his banking for him, calling his school to discuss his grade, or handling her doctor’s appointments, you can no longer do that without written permission from your child. That is why it is important for your young adults to have the following documents:

Power of Attorney. This document allows your child to appoint you to handle legal and financial issues.  If your child is out of the area, it might be much easier if your conduct business for him.  This may also allow you to talk to her college about any issues that arise there, including grades.

HIPAA Authorization. This document allows you to get medical records and discuss treatment with your child’s health care providers or insurance companies.  No parent wants to think about what could happen if a child is rushed to the hospital from the college campus and the hospital will not release information over the phone without written consent from the patient.  This document allows access to patient information, protected by the patient privacy laws, even if your child is not disabled or unavailable.

Patient Advocate. This document takes affect if your child is unable to participate in his own medical decisions, as determined by a doctor’s signature.  This allows the parent to make all treatment decisions.

Will.  If someone dies without a will, the state law determines how assets are disbursed.  Many young adults own things that are meaningful to them (like their pets, musical instruments, or maybe their first car). They may want to decide who should inherit those things. They may also want to leave money to charities that are important to them, to their church or to siblings. This won’t just automatically happen without a Will.

Rather than making the estate plan discussion with your child focus on death, the conversation can be about the first steps towards adulthood.  It can help a young person understand some of the responsibilities of adulthood and to plan accordingly.

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Legal Strategies, P.C. 

Beth Stubbs is the Macomb County, Michigan attorney who heads up the Legal Strategies practice. Legal Strategies assists clients in the areas of estate planning, probate and real estate. 
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