A young adult’s eighteenth birthday is a momentous occasion. It is the age at which U.S. law bestows most adult privileges and responsibilities. It is also the age at which a young adult’s parent or guardian no longer has the legal right to make major decisions on that individual’s behalf. Instead, the newly-recognized adult can make major legal, financial and medical decisions for themselves.
It is due to this significant legal transition that all 18-year-old Americans need to draft a basic estate plan. “Woah there,” you might be thinking, “I am not going to need an estate plan for a while yet.” This is a common misperception. In reality, you need one in place right now.
Power of attorney and healthcare directives
Estate planning doesn’t simply address someone’s wishes in the event of their death. It also allows individuals to make their wishes known in the event that they slip into a coma or are otherwise incapacitated due to injury or illness.
By designating a power of attorney, you’ll appoint someone you trust to make certain decisions on your behalf if you’re incapacitated. By crafting a healthcare directive, you’ll make your medical treatment wishes clear. If you don’t take these steps, state law will dictate who is empowered to make decisions on your behalf.
Wills and digital estate plans
By crafting a will, you – not the state – will decide who gets to assume ownership of your possessions after you’re gone. By crafting a digital estate plan, you’ll decide how your online accounts, assets and intellectual property are managed in the event of your incapacitation or death.
By being proactive about estate planning as soon as you turn 18, you’ll better ensure that your wishes are respected if you are unexpectedly incapacitated or you pass away. It isn’t easy to think about these potential realities, but as no one knows how much time they’ll have on Earth, it’s important to make sure that your affairs are in order, just in case.