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Why young adults should consider estate planning

Under California law, once a child turns 18 years of age they are viewed as an adult. Entering adulthood involves taking steps to prepare for the unexpected, whether it is a sudden illness or a serious accident. No one likes to think of themselves in such terrible circumstances in which they are unable to make their own informed decisions. However, preparing for the future can help provide peace of mind.

Few young adults are aware of the need for at least a basic estate plan. According to a 2015 study by Fidelity Investments, 41 percent of millennials have not discussed wills and estate planning with their parents. Parents tend to assume they are entitled to make legal decisions for their college-aged children. However, once a person turns 18, they have “the legal right to privacy and to govern their own lives” as an adult.

Key estate planning documents a young adult should have are a will, power of attorney, advanced health care directive and HIPAA release. A HIPAA — or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act — release gives doctors permission to share medical information with those named on the form in case of an emergency.

While it is not necessary for every 18-year-old to have a will, they should appoint a trusted friend or family member to serve as a health care proxy. This person has the authority to make medical decisions on the young adult’s behalf in the event they are unable to.

Young adults would also benefit from a general power of attorney. In many cases parents are named appointees. However, without the proper documents, they would be unable to access their child’s financial accounts. Not having such estate planning documents could create serious complications in case of an accident or other unforeseen circumstances.