Dying in Your Teens

Q: Does a teenager need an estate plan?

Understandably, people don’t like to think about their own death and they certainly don’t want to think of their child dying. Consequently, they may not see a Minnesota estate planning lawyer for the first time until they reach a milestone like a marriage or the birth of a child. In some cases, this could be too late.

When new parents seek the help of an estate planning attorney, they usually expect to draft a last will and testament. That document not only provides for how they want their assets to be distributed upon death, but will also designate the people they wish to be guardians of their minor children in the event they die before the children reach majority.

But in the often-chaotic months of a child’s senior year of high school and in preparing for their transition to college and/or a working life after graduation, many parents don’t realize their now-grown “baby” is legally an adult once they hit 18. That means the unquestioned authority and control they’ve always had over their child’s legal and medical affairs is gone–unless documents are drafted establishing otherwise.

Teens with children and/or substantial assets should definitely have an estate plan. In fact, all teens reaching majority should have an estate plan—not only to provide for distributing property upon their death, but more so for planning for incapacity prior to death.

A comprehensive estate plan will include powers of attorney and health care proxies under which the young adult can designate agents to act on their behalf in healthcare and/or financial matters if they are unable to do so.  Durable powers of attorney allow an agent to handle your financial affairs and can go into effect immediately or they can spring into effect at a future date in the event of the maker’s incapacitation. Durable powers of attorney for healthcare enable an agent to make your healthcare decisions for you in the event you become incapacitated. Living wills, enable the maker to express their wishes regarding end-of-life medical decisions.

Don’t wait until your child is away at college and experiencing a medical emergency to find out that you don’t have the authority to decide your child’s course of treatment and that privacy regulations may prohibit medical professionals from giving you any information at all. Young adults have car accidents, and get injured at colleges, at work, and on trips.

Recently, a 19-year-old Minnesota woman who was reportedly not wearing a helmet was killed on a ski trip after allegedly hitting a tree.

We don’t anticipate these unspeakable tragedies, but we should plan for them in advance.

If you need an initial estate plan, would like to modify an existing estate plan, or have a child who nearing the age of 18, Unique Estate Law can help you get your (and your new adult child’s) affairs in order. Contact us today for a free 15-minute consultation.

From our offices in Bloomington and Minneapolis, we represent clients throughout Minnesota including Minneapolis, Edina, Bloomington, St. Lou