There are a lot of things people say everyone should have when they turn eighteen. I’m sure many of those things are good recommendations. But I am talking specifically from an estate planning perspective. As an estate planner, I feel every adult ought to have these three legal documents when they turn eighteen:
- A Will
Wills are not just for “old people” or “rich people.” A will, at its core, states where you want everything to go when you die and who you want to be in charge of getting it there. (And by “everything,” I mean everything you own, not “everything” everything. So if you wish a specific politician to go to a certain place I won’t name, a will won’t make that happen, and I won’t help with that either.) So even if you don’t think you have much in the way of assets, stating where your assets should go and who’s in charge of carrying out your wishes will make things much easier for those left behind.
- An Advance Health Care Directive
This document is always a good idea, no matter what your age. Accidents can happen to anyone at any time, and this document will make it clear to your relatives and your doctors who will oversee your medical care and who has access to your medical information. But everyone should have this when they turn eighteen because I have heard stories of parents with college-age kids whose child is in the hospital, and they can’t get any information on how the child is doing or what is happening with the child’s care. This situation also creates a risk that the doctors will be making decisions that the patient won’t be happy with.
That leads to my next point. A health care directive is also a place where you can state your preferences. If the doctors ask a loved one what you want, and the loved one doesn’t actually know, they’re going to guess. Usually, they guess based on what they want, and studies show they often get it wrong. So, if you have a preference, stating it in a health care directive will make sure your wishes are carried out.
- A Power of Attorney
As with the health care directive, a power of attorney is suitable for any adult in the event of an accident that leaves them unable to communicate with others. While the health care directive deals with medical decisions, a power of attorney deals with financial decisions. You don’t want to come home from an extended hospital stay to find out you’ve been evicted for not paying your rent, or find out you won that online auction for that first edition Star Wars Millennium Falcon Lego set, but then lost the item because you didn’t pay in time. A power of attorney will allow your agent to pay bills on your behalf and make sure prime collectibles don’t slip through your fingers.
These documents may not make nerds jealous, but they will be a big help to you and your loved ones in the event you are badly injured or killed. If you would like more information about the three legal documents you should have when you turn eighteen or help to put these documents together, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.