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What estate planning documents should all young adults have?

Most young people don’t consider developing an estate plan unless they have a considerable amount of money or assets, either from earnings, an inheritance, a legal settlement or some other source. They’re busy building their careers, working towards paying off student loans and perhaps starting families.

However, even successful young actor Anton Yelchin, who was suddenly and tragically killed in June when his Jeep rolled down his driveway, crushing him, didn’t have a will. The parents of the 27-year-old actor, best known for his role in the latest round of “Star Trek” films, had to go to court to be granted the right to administer his $1.4 million estate.

While most young people don’t have anything close to those types of assets, estate planning experts recommend that anyone 18 and older should at least have documents in place stating who can make health care and financial decisions for him or her should he or she be unable to do so. Once people turn 18, their parents or guardians no longer automatically have the authority to make medical decisions for them.

Debilitating accidents and illnesses can happen to anyone at any age. We’ve all seen stories about family members fighting over whether a person should be kept on life support or allowed to die. A health care power of attorney (in California, it’s called an “Advance Health Care Directive”) allows you to choose the person who will be responsible for overseeing these decisions.

Further, it gives you the opportunity to designate your wishes if you were to become incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. This can relieve the considerable burden placed on family members who have to make end-of-life decisions.

A financial POA is also a good estate planning document to have. It designates who can access your accounts. This can help prevent your family from having to go to court to have one appointed. It can also help in ensuring that bills and other obligations continue to be paid if you’re unable to take care of the obligations for a time.

As one estate planning professional notes, these documents allow people “to have a voice ahead of time” in what will happen to them and their assets if they die or are unable to speak for themselves. They can also be the basis for a more comprehensive estate plan later on.

Source: Investment News, “The most important part of a young person’s estate plan,” Greg Iacurci, Aug. 03, 2016

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