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I'm 18: What's an estate plan, and do I need to implement one?

A common misconception among many millions of Americans that is frequently pointed out by estate planners, financial advisers and many wealth-related consultants and commentators is the view that only comparatively old and well-established individuals and families need estate plans.

In fact, sound estate planning encompasses far more than mere wealth-sheltering strategies for well-heeled persons and their heirs. Indeed, and as we noted in a recent blog post (please see our October 2, 2013, entry), thoughtful estate planning is an invaluable undertaking for most Americans, without regard to station.

We restate the words of a financial educator, which we passed along in that earlier post. She noted that “estate planning is really something we all need, no matter our age or level of wealth.”

Many people in Texas and elsewhere might not readily perceive the need for persons 18 or only slightly older -- those just reaching the so-called “age of majority” -- to think about and implement some basic planning strategies.

That demographic, though, can benefit just as greatly as others by legally setting forth understandings regarding important topics. Those centrally include the following matters:

  • Health care considerations, especially noting persons designated as proxies to receive medical information and make important decisions in the event of incapacitation
  • Financial considerations, including designation of one or more persons (often parents) to act on money matters pursuant to the grant of a power of attorney

It is often easy to forget that an 18-year-old is legally deemed an adult for most purposes, and that third parties -- such as parents -- no longer have an automatic right of access over many matters in the absence of legal consent conferred by a young adult.

That is something to think about in reference to the age of majority. With young adults, too, drafting pertinent estate planning documents can promote certainty and confidence as life presents new challenges and opportunities.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Why your college-age children need an estate plan," Anne Tergesen, Sept. 2, 2013

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