People associate estate planning with reaching a certain age. Young, healthy adults often assume they don’t have to think about estate planning for a couple of decades or can at least wait until they have children.
That attitude is on the one hand understandable but on the other hand very dangerous. Estate planning isn’t just about providing for your children once you have them or setting aside big assets when you want to leave a charitable legacy.
Estate planning is also about protecting yourself in the event of an accident or medical emergency that you would have no way of predicting before it occurred. Your estate plan should include a living will, as well as your last will and other plans for the end of your life.
If you haven’t gotten married, there is no one to speak for you
When you turn 18, legal adulthood gives you certain new responsibilities and certain rights. One of the changes people don’t think about that much is how their parents no longer have a say in their medical care.
Not only do your parents no longer have the ultimate authority to make decisions about what care you receive, but they don’t have the right to know about your medical care without your permission after you become an adult. That privacy is an important right, but it can be a hindrance in the event of an emergency.
If you get into a car accident or collapse due to a medical event, your parents won’t necessarily know about your recent medical care. They also won’t be able to make decisions about the care you receive. No one other than a spouse has that authority for an adult unless an individual specifically empowers others to act on their behalf.
Powers of attorney and health care documents protect you
Signing documents to create a living will can protect you if something unexpected happens. Your parents, your sibling or someone else that you trust deeply can have the authority under the documents you create to handle your financial matters or make certain medical decisions for you.
You can give permission for certain people to access your medical records in an emergency and also provide explicit instructions about your various medical preferences. Rather than just presuming that nothing will happen, you will benefit the most from acknowledging that life is unpredictable and creating documents now that protect you.
You can always update these documents when you have children, get married or otherwise have changing preferences and needs. Understanding how becoming an adult leaves you vulnerable during an emergency can help you put a plan in place in case you need outside support.