Even Young Adults Need Estate Planning

Even young adults need estate planning, to which you might reply, “Duh! Of course they do. We already know that.” However, most young adults have not signed estate planning documents, thinking they’re “too young” to worry about it.

In our focus on Family Legacy Planning, we are shining a light on the concept of “holistic” estate planning, planning that goes beyond just having a will. One aspect of holistic estate planning is to see to it that every adult member of your family is protected.

I recently read an article that drives home this point: “Estate Planning for a Disrupted Life” in the July/August 2021 issue of Probate & Property magazine. It tells the story of one such young adult referred to as “S.T.,” seemingly invincible, already an accomplished professional with multiple degrees, fluent in four languages. While leaving work and walking to her car, something fell from a building and hit her in the head. The result was a “TBI”—a traumatic brain injury. Without a Power of Attorney (naming an agent to handle her financial decisions) and without a Health Care Power of Attorney (designating who speaks for her on medical decisions), S.T.’s fate was left to the courts. A court-appointed Guardian Ad Litem (a “GAL”) accepted a lawsuit settlement on her behalf, over S.T.’s objection. The trial court and appellate court sided with the GAL, but the state Supreme Court reversed, siding with S.T. It was a very messy and expensive fight.

Let’s rewind the clock and imagine that S.T. had signed simple documents like a Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, Designation of Guardian, HIPAA Waiver, and Directive to Physicians. These five documents are part of almost every estate planning basic package, along with a Will. Instead of turning over her decisions to the court system, S.T. would have decided in advance who would be in control of her financial and health decisions, minimizing (and possibly eliminating) the court’s role.

I know, what happened to S.T. was a fluke and not likely to happen to any young adults in your family. But doing some simple documents is very wise insurance, just in case. COVID-19 taught us that even young people are vulnerable. Holistic estate planning means planning for things beyond who inherits when you die— things like family governance, asset protection planning, and planning for contingencies such as disability and other illness. Holistic planning also means seeing to it that every adult member of your family has signed a package of basic estate planning documents.

The Blum Firm would be honored to help you achieve this peace of mind.

Marvin E. Blum