Every adult needs at least a few basic legal documents to provide for her own medical and financial affairs.
Once a person turns 18 years old he becomes a legal adult. This matters from an estate planning perspective because:
- Parents or legal guardians lose their right of access to information about that young adult.
- The young adult loses the automatic right of the parents or legal guardians to advocate on his behalf.
- If the young adult needs assistance with medical care or financial advocacy, such as in the event of an emergency, the parent or legal guardian will be unable to do so without legal authorization.
That’s why every young adult needs at least a very basic estate plan. With proper legal authorization, parents and legal guardians can continue to support and advocate for their children and gain access to their medical, financial, and digital information.
A basic estate plan preserves good relationships between different family members who may not agree with one another about the young adult’s stated wishes.
Every young adult should have at least some basic legal documents that provide the adults of her choosing the authority to:
- Manage her financial affairs such as paying bills, requesting statement copies, and renegotiating contract or lease terms when she just wants helps and in case of an emergency;
- Access her online banking and other electronic, financial accounts;
- Access her protected health information;
- Consent to or refuse medical treatments and procedures if she cannot do so herself;
- Serve as her spokesperson regarding her end of life wishes;
- Consent to donating her organs;
- Arrange for her cremation or burial;
- Organize the details of her memorial service according to her preferences;
- Post notices to and/or memorialize, download copies of, or close out her social media accounts;
- Specify who should receive certain sentimental pieces of personal property, like jewelry, collections or mementos.
DGVE law’s March workshop featured a checklist for dusting off your old estate plan. Here are some details to help you evaluate whether your plan will do what you need, and when.
- My legal documents were drafted by a Massachusetts attorney following a review of my family and financial circumstances and a personal consultation with me to clarify my wishes and create a custom-tailored plan to suit my unique circumstances. In other words, it’s not an online DIY plan.
- My legal documents were created and I formally signed (in the presence of 2 totally disinterested Witnesses and a notary public) in Massachusetts after March 31, 2012.
- My estate plan is written in plain English. I understand it and review it myself periodically to make sure it stays current.
- I have reviewed my legal documents with my attorney in the past 3 years or less.
- My spouse has not died and I have not: had any major health changes, had another child, had a grandchild, divorced, remarried, received an inheritance, moved, changed jobs, won the lottery or come into some other type of financial windfall, or been sued or threatened with a lawsuit since I last reviewed or updated my estate plan.
- If my spouse wants to remarry after my death, I am confident (s)he will sign a prenuptial agreement to ensure that the assets I leave behind go to my child(ren) and not to any potential step-children or children with the next spouse.
- I remain confident in the choices I made regarding which people will serve in what order to manage all of my assets in the event of my incapacity and after my death. I have named multiple backups or provided for succession to avoid a vacuum in the management of these affairs.
- I have a Personal Property Memorandum and I know where it is and what to do with it.
- I remain confident in the choices I made regarding which people will serve in what order to express my medical and end of life wishes and advocate on my behalf during my incapacity and after my death. I have named multiple backups.
- If I were in an accident, emergency responders would have access to my medical documents and information and know whom to call for assistance right away.
- I have legally appointed temporary, emergency guardians for my minor child(ren) in the event of an accident or situation in which I am unable to travel/return home. I have provided for my children to remain in our family’s home in such an event so my child(ren) is not further traumatized by being removed from comfortable and familiar surroundings.
- I have legally appointed permanent guardians for my minor child(ren). Note: Godparents don’t count legally. Bonus points if your children are still minors and you’re not sending an adult child to live with Aunt Sarah.
- I have legally appointed permanent guardians for my minor child(ren) outside of my Will to facilitate the quick resolution of that matter and establish permanency and minimize secondary traumas for my child(ren) as quickly as possible in the event of such a tragedy.
- I have made arrangements and my wishes known regarding my stored genetic materials (sperm, eggs, embryos).
- I have provided for my minor children’s guardians’ financial needs to help accommodate my children (e.g. new car, adding a bathroom or home addition, moving to a larger home, etc.).
- I have considered how my child(ren) and my guardian’s might be economically situated relative to one another and have provided for my guardian’s child(ren) to also use some of the resources I leave behind so that they can benefit similarly in furtherance of their interpersonal relationships.
- I have made provisions to maintain both sides of the family and lifelong, dear friends in regular visitation and communication with my child(ren).
- My minor children’s caregivers know whom to call and what to do in the event of an emergency.
- My college-age / young adult child(ren) have their own basic estate plan so that I can advocate for and assist easily on behalf of the child(ren) in the event of an emergency.
- My loved ones will know where to find my estate plan and where to turn for help if I am incapacitated and after my death.
- If my “nuclear” family and I were all to die, I feel good knowing where all of my assets would go and that the receipt of those assets wouldn’t cause any unintended consequences.
- After ensuring I have provided adequately for my family’s needs, I feel good knowing that I have made provisions to recognize charities in my plan that align with my values and beliefs.
- I am confident my loved ones will understand my end of life wishes and that deciding those important matters won’t cause them unnecessary pain or lead to potentially relationship-damaging disagreements amongst them.
- I am confident my estate plan is structured to help my loved ones avoid the necessity for working through the court probate process, with all that entails, to inventory and gain approval for the distribution of all my assets after my death.
- All of my assets are properly titled and/or beneficiary designations made in accordance with my plan. For example, my trust is fully funded and my life insurance policy and retirement plan beneficiaries are up to date and work in conjunction with my Trust or Will.
- I have not named any loved ones who are minor children or disabled as beneficiaries of my estate, life insurance policy, nor retirement plan.
- I understand the differences between Massachusetts and federal estate taxes and am confident my estate plan will help minimize those that may be due after my death.
- My estate plan reflects my personal wishes regarding the use of my assets to provide for my surviving loved ones (i.e. the who, what for, when, why, & how of it all).
- I have taken steps to ensure that my younger child(ren) are able to benefit as my older (child)ren and that my assets are able to be distributed to each child taking into account relative needs and their own independent resources rather than a sterile, mathematical division based on a presumption that equality of love translates to equal division of assets.
- I am comfortable that my current plan will protect my spouse and/or children’s future inheritance from both curiosity seekers as well as those who might wish to prey upon them during periods of vulnerability.
- I am confident my children’s inheritance is protected from loss from their own immaturity, potential addiction, divorce, lawsuits, and creditors.
- I feel good about having documented my life’s values and left a lasting memento and legacy for my surviving loved ones for generations to come.
- I have provided guidance and authority to manage my social media accounts, access my devices and their contents, online banking and payment accounts, etc…
- I have provided for my pet(s)’ care in the event of my temporary incapacity and after my death. I have considered the best way to leave assets to assist with that ongoing routine, reasonable care.
- I have included provisions to account for future changes in the law, tax codes, and to address minor corrections at a much reduced cost and without the need for formal court involvement.
- I have included careful language to discourage people in my life who might disagree with my choices or feel entitled to some of my assets from challenging my estate plan in court.
If you don’t feel you’ve checked off enough of these to feel confident in the adequacy of your current estate plan, please contact our office to set up a Peace of Mind Planning Session so we can review your existing plan in personal detail and see what needs updating to better reflect your wishes now.