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I just turned 18, do I need a will?

On Behalf of | Sep 22, 2020 | Estate Planning

This year has been, in a word, “crazy.” And, this craziness and uncertainty has made many young people begin questioning whether they need to start estate planning or draft a will.

Do 18-year-olds need a will?

As a general rule, whether a young person needs a Last Will and Testament depends on what that young person owns and how they want that stuff distributed. If one is single, childless and in college, they likely do not have much “stuff.” Generally speaking, that stuff will go back to one’s parents. This does not require a will, and many colleges allow parents to retrieve their child’s items.

Of course, students still need bank accounts to deposit checks, like financial aid and scholarship overpayments. Transferring money from checking and savings accounts after death can be done through making these accounts joint accounts or an account beneficiary designation. Neither requires a will.

Does that mean that young people do not need to estate plan?

In a word, “no,” and that is an emphatic, “no.” Once a child turns 18, they are now an adult. This means that this young adult can make all of their own decisions. This also means that one’s parents’ are no longer their agents, and they cannot make medical decisions for them. Parents may have to go to court to gain that ability.

This is why it is so important to have a Power of Attorney and Living Will drafted as soon as possible after one turns 18. The POA empowers a third-party to act on one’s behalf to make medical and/or financial decisions if one is incapable of making those decisions for themselves. This can be one’s parents, an attorney, trusted friend or anyone else one designates.

The Living Will specifies how one wishes their life to end, including whether to resuscitate, intubate, how long to be on a respirator, etc. It will also name a patient advocate to make medical decisions when the drafter is incapable of making their own medical decisions. This can be the same person named in the POA, but it does not necessarily need to be because the POA may only name a person empowered to make financial decisions.

As our Richmond readers can likely tell at this point, estate planning can get complicated, but is needed early. This is why it is so important to contact an estate planning attorney.