Professor Gerry W. Beyer, Governor Preston E. Smith Regents Professor of Law at Texas Tech School of Law recently wrote an article titled “Why Your Eighteen Year Old Needs an Estate Plan”, which succinctly covers issues many parents overlook when their child turns eighteen. That article is reprinted below.
Many families overlook the critical fact that once their children turn 18 they reach the age of majority in most states. Once an individual reaches the age of majority, his parents can no longer automatically see his records or make decisions on his behalf.
Most 18 year olds do not have a substantial amount of property and therefore, believe they do not need an estate plan. However, an estate plan goes beyond determining where property goes when someone dies. A comprehensive estate plan includes who will have the ability to make financial and health care decisions. Without the correct documentation, some medical professionals may refuse to release information, or allow parents or other relatives to make health care decisions.
Young adults wanting their decision-making preferences carried out should fill out the basic estate-planning documents when they turn 18. Every couple of years these documents need to be renewed. Everyone should appoint a relative or trusted friend to serve as their financial or health care proxy. Doing so will ensure that your intentions are carried out when you are not around.
So when your child turns eighteen, in addition to registering them to vote and having your son register with the Selective Service System, they should also execute a Durable Power of Appointment, a Medical Power of Appointment, a HIPAA Release and a Designation of Guardian. They may wish to consider other estate planning as well, but executing these is the minimum they need.