By Robert J. Green, Esq.
Most people that I meet associate the phrase "estate plan" with the rich and the elderly. I have written here before about why it is untrue that only the wealthy need an estate plan. Today we will examine how a person's youth impacts their need for estate planning.
We should begin by understanding that an "estate plan" is nothing more than the collection of legal documents that a person should have to answer two very important questions: 1) if I am alive but unable to make my own decisions due to incapacity, who will make those decisions for me; and 2) if I am dead, what do I want to happen to my minor children and all of my possessions, and who will be in charge of carrying out my wishes? No matter your age or wealth, if you do not have the right legal documents in place to answer those questions, then state law and a county judge in Idaho will provide the default answers - and they very well may not be the answers you would want.
Given what an "estate plan" is, nearly every young adult in Idaho should have one. Now it is certainly true that the estate planning needs of a 19 year old and those of a 79 year old will be different. So, what documents should generally be included in a young adult's estate plan?
Young adults in Idaho should consider putting in place two "Power of Attorney" documents - one related to health care decisions, and the other related to financial decisions. Simply put, these are the documents that state who it is that should make your decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself because something has happened to you (illness, injury, disease, disappearance, etc.)
Young adults in Idaho should consider completing "Advanced Directive" documents. These could include a "Living Will" or a "Physician's Order for Scope of Treatment" or similar directives. These documents state what medical treatments you do or do not want administered to you if you are terminally ill and your death is imminent, or you are in what is called a "persistent vegetative state."
Young adults in Idaho should consider having a "HIPAA Release" prepared. This is a document that simply allows health care providers (doctor's office, hospital, etc.) to release medical information about you to the people you list on the release.
Finally, young adults in Idaho should consider executing a "Last Will and Testament." Often simply called a "Will," this is the document you use to leave instructions regarding what should happen to your possessions and assets when you die (who gets what), as well as who it is that should carry out your wishes (who's in charge). The Will is also the place where you nominate the person or people who should act as guardian(s) for your minor children if both of the child's parents are deceased or otherwise unavailable.
Getting a basic estate plan in place is a relatively simple thing to do with the assistance of a competent attorney. Some law firms like mine will even offer free consultations concerning estate planning. Why not take advantage of the opportunity to get these basic documents in order now?
This has been presented as general information and not as legal advice. Do not engage in legal decision-making without the advice of a competent attorney after discussion of your specific circumstances.