If you are wondering why you would need an estate plan before you have children, you are not alone. Many people assume, incorrectly, that they only need an estate plan when they need to appoint guardians for minor children in their will. If you’re 18 or older, you need a comprehensive estate plan; before then, you are covered by your parents’ estate plan.
No Legal Authority When Children Attain the Age of 18
Once you attain the age of 18, your parents are no longer able to make legal and medical decisions on your behalf without legal authority. The best way to grant authority is to create powers of attorney, naming your parents, or other trusted loved ones, as agents (and successor agents.)
Avoiding Court Interference and Guardianship Proceedings
If you don’t have powers of attorney in place and you become incapacitated, your parents will have to go to court for a guardianship proceeding. Guardianships are to be avoided as they are expensive, time-consuming, highly stressful, public, and involve a total loss of control. In Kentucky, incapacity in a guardianship proceeding is determined by a jury trial. If you are found incapacitated, the court will decide who will make medical and financial decisions on your behalf and it may not be the same persons you would choose.
Avoiding Life Support Machines
If you don’t want to be hooked up to machines to artificially extend your life if you are in an irreversible coma or persistent vegetative state, you need a living will. According the U.S. Supreme Court, a living will is clear and convincing evidence of your intent not to be kept alive with life support machines.
If you want to control who gets your assets after you die, you definitely need an estate plan. If you don’t have your own will (or trust), state law determines who gets your money.
Where to Get Help with Your Estate Plan
Life and your estate plan both get more complicated when children come into your lives; but, in the meantime, you still need a comprehensive estate plan to protect yourself and your loved ones. Consult with a qualified estate planning attorney about the best options for you.