When you’re a young adult, you feel as if you might live forever. Of course, you know that one day your mortality will catch up with you, but that day seems far, far away. Unfortunately, the reality is that death or incapacitation can happen at any time, at any age. Estate planning should begin as soon as you become a legal adult. Without an estate plan, it is possible that strangers may be left to make decision for you instead of people you choose.
That’s the fearsome reality that one mother encountered when her 18-year-old son experienced an accident so terrible that it put him in a coma.
A Life-Threatening Accident
Forrest Stone, a native of The Plains, Virginia who had just turned 18, went snowboarding and crashed, suffering injuries that nearly killed him. He was rushed to the intensive care unit at a nearby hospital, where medical staff hooked him up to a ventilator. A surgeon removed the front section of his skull, since his brain was swelling and suffering damage from pushing against the skull. The removal of the bone barrier allowed the swelling to continue without destroying more brain cells.
Stone’s mother and father had no legal say in his medical care or in the treatment provided. Because he was legally an adult at 18 and had no living will or estate plan with a specified power of attorney for health care, Stone was put under the complete authority of his doctors. Because the young man could not speak or express his own wishes, the doctors made all decisions relating to his condition and treatment.
Quickly, Stone’s mother moved to obtain the legal permissions she needed to take over her son’s health care decisions. This can be an expensive process. With her directives and advice from doctors, her son is slowly recovering, learning to talk and walk again and re-teaching himself the guitar.
Preventative Measures For a Young Adult
How can you as a parent or a teen avoid this kind of dramatic and difficult situation? A young adult, 18 and older, needs to have three forms. First is a medical power of attorney document, which allows someone you choose, such as your parents, to make all necessary medical decisions for you when you cannot. In addition, parents should have an HIPAA release form on file, which allows their child’s medical care providers to disclose any health-related information to them. A durable power of attorney document permits parents to take care of their adult child’s financial affairs if necessary.
Just for Teens
If you are a young person approaching age 18, do some research and find a good lawyer in Maryland to help you draft these essential documents. Bring your parents along, of course, and encourage them to make an estate plan as well if they haven’t already done so. Be sure to have all the forms properly signed, and update them as necessary when you are older.
For Parents of Teens
As the parent of a teenager, make the estate planning process a part of your child’s transition into adulthood. Explain to your children that taking precautions is not morbid, but merely another step in the process of growing up and taking responsibility for themselves and their future. While you’re at it, visit your estate planning lawyer on your own behalf to make sure that your will and other documents are up to date.
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About Nicole K. White
After losing a close relative, Nicole witnessed the devastation, enormous expense and chaos caused by not having a simple estate plan. It is Nicole’s mission to educate parents, especially single parents, about protecting themselves, their families, minor children, and assets with comprehensive Estate Planning.