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Do young adults need a power of attorney?

Many Texas residents consider estate planning a need arises in the late adulthood stage of life. In reality, however, all adults can find value in estate planning, regardless of their age or stage of life. In fact, young adults have specific estate planning needs that many families fail to recognize, and can benefit from a power of attorney and other estate planning tools.

Consider a young adult away at college. While college students often still rely on their parents for guidance and financial assistance, the fact remains that they are legal adults, and are treated as such in the greater world. When a student experiences a serious medical emergency while away at school, many parents are shocked to realize that they have no right to access the personal medical information regarding their child. This can lead to difficulties in determining the best course of emergency medical treatment, and can waste valuable time in determining how authorization for treatment should be obtained.

The best approach to avoid this scenario is to make incapacity planning the first aspect of a young adult's estate planning package. These documents can include a health care directive or living will, which clearly stipulates what type of medical treatment is desired or who is authorized to make medical decisions in the event that the student becomes unable to do so on their own. A great deal of time and confusion can be saved by way of these simple documents.

Another consideration is a power of attorney. Such a document outlines who is granted the authority to make important financial decisions in the event that an adult child dies or becomes unable to function at a competent level. Examples can include how to allocate assets such as a vehicle or other possessions.

While the vast majority of Texas families will never need the protections granted to young adults through a health care directive or power of attorney, planning for the worst-case scenario is an important precaution to take. In addition, addressing estate planning needs with your newly-adult child provides an excellent opportunity to discuss the importance of handling these types of issues. Working together to make a responsible plan for the future is a great springboard into adulthood and the wide range of decisions that are to come in the years ahead.

Source: NBC News, "Even young adults should start estate planning," Sheyna Steiner, May 6, 2013

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