Is your child 18 or over? Oft-forgotten Legal Documents
This article is brought to you by John Costanzo, Esq., who helps families develop and craft a comprehensive estate plan. If you have questions or would like to discuss your estate plan, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (781) 643-1070.
Children grow up fast. As children reach age 18 there are a myriad of new responsibilities and opportunities. Often, during this flurry of activity, parents and young adults do not realize the legal implications of a child becoming an adult.
When a child reaches the age of 18 they become responsible for their own decisions regarding medical and financial management. Parents are no longer legally able to make decisions regarding these issues without the permission of their young adult. What happens if the young adult is unable to make these decisions and they are unable to give permission to someone else to make these decisions due to medical, psychiatric, or other issues?
In order for parents to make medical decisions for an incapacitated adult child, parents would have to petition the court for a Guardianship and adhere to the court’s strict reporting requirements. Similarly, if parents wanted to manage that young incapacitated adult’s finances they would have to petition the court for a Conservatorship. Both Guardianship and Conservatorship court requirements can be costly, time consuming, and cumbersome.
Fortunately, a young adult is able to make decisions for themselves with regard to documents while they are not incapacitated. Whether going off to college or setting out on their own, young adults can sign documents so that loved ones are spared from navigating the court system should something happen to the young adult rendering them unable to make decisions.
A young adult can have an attorney draft a Health Care Proxy (with accompanying Living Will) and a Durable Power of Attorney, both of which will be signed, witnessed, and notarized. In these documents, the young adult will name a person or persons who will have the power to make medical and financial decisions should the young adult become unable. If the young adult becomes incapacitated, the named person or persons can use these documents to make medical and financial decisions for the young adult without court involvement with few exceptions.
Most parents and young adults don’t think about these documents, and often, even if these documents are drafted, they are not needed. If, however, something does happen to the young adult, these documents are always at the ready and the named agents can instantly make decisions without court involvement or oversite with few exceptions. An estate planning attorney can draft these documents relatively quickly and doing so can provide peace of mind and a safety net.
Please keep in mind that this article is for educational purposes only. Nothing contained in this article should be construed as legal advice. If you wish to engage in drafting these documents, I recommend that you seek professional counsel.
John Costanzo, Esq.
713 B Main Street
Bolton, MA 01740