Most young adults think they’re invincible and nothing can happen to them. The reality is that anyone, regardless of age, can fall victim to a freak accident be it to serious illness, car crash, or even a random act of violence. Once you turn 18, your parents no longer have the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf, or even find out information about you. Imagine you are in a medical emergency, but haven’t legally appointed someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. Also, during your medical emergency, you may be unable to take care of your finances such as basic banking or paying your bills. Your parent or sibling would have to petition the court to be appointed your Conservator which could take weeks or even months. This means all medical and financial decisions can’t be made until someone is appointed by the court. This also means medical and financial records can’t be accessed until the court appoints someone. Nobody can predict when an accident will occur, but you can prepare in case of one. Our attorneys recommend all individuals have the following three documents once they turn 18.
Durable Power of Attorney
There may come a time where an accident leaves you incapable of making financial decisions. The Durable Power of Attorney is a document that allows a person of your choosing the ability to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Your agent can have as much or as little legal authority as you would like. This could be something as simple as depositing paychecks into an account or as complex as filing taxes. You could also give them all of the powers available under the law. Your agent doesn’t necessarily have to be an expert in finance, just someone you trust to make good decisions with your assets. If you don’t have a financial power of attorney and you become incapacitated, the court will have to appoint a conservator of your estate which can be a lengthy process.
Advance Healthcare Directive
You have the right to give instruction about your own healthcare, as well as the right to appoint someone to act on your behalf in the event you become incapable of making those decisions. In executing an Advance Health Care Directive, you provide instructions to your agent to carry out your wishes when it comes to issues like personal care (i.e. where you would live, what you would wear, caring for pets, etc.), end of life decisions (i.e. pain relief, hospice care, life termination, etc.), organ donation, burial instructions, and much more. Your health care agent will be bound to the specifications you have made and will work with the medical staff to ensure your wishes are followed as outlined by you in your healthcare directive.
A will is important because in the event of your death, it will be the document the court will look at to appoint someone who will handle your affairs as well as how you would like your assets distributed. Even if you’re young and don’t think you own anything of value, remember assets include bank accounts, cars, and even social media accounts. If your assets do not exceed $150,000 (which is typically the case with younger adults), in the state of California, your representative can file a small estate affidavit and won’t have to go through the full probate process, which will save your family time and money. Without a will, or if your estate exceeds $150,000 in California, your family will be forced to go through probate which can take anywhere from 9 months to two years, as well as pay a considerable amount of money in court and attorney fees. The will is also where you would appoint legal guardians for your minor children. Without this, the court will get to decide who the guardians of your children will be. If you own pets, you can even appoint guardians and set aside money for their upkeep.
Jimi Hendrix, a young musical celebrity, passed away at the young age of 27. An attorney held his estate open for 20 years after his death before his father, Al Hendrix, sued and became beneficiary of the estate in 1995. Things got even more complicated after Al Hendrix died and the entire estate was left to Jimi Hendrix’s half-sister, Janie, who he barely even knew. More issues arose when allegations of abuse of the estate on Janie’s part led to a lawsuit from Jimi’s brother Leon. Jimi Hendrix died in 1970 and his estate case was settled in 2007; 37 years because he didn’t have a will. Although the Hendrix case faced more complications than your standard case, the nature of these events is unpredictable. Thus, in order to plan ahead, have a will in place to avoid a complicated court case that could potentially cost your family a great deal of time and money.
Estate planning is complicated; especially if you haven’t looked into it much. Finding an attorney who is experienced and wants the best for you is imperative, so you can make the best decisions for you and your family. We invite you to give us a call at (650) 463-1550 to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.