If you’ve ever tried to help an elderly parent or grandparent, you know the frustrations of not being the person identified as the power of attorney. Whether you’re trying to communicate care needs with a doctor or make sure checks get written to pay a utility or medical bill, your hands may be tied if your parent or grandparent hasn’t listed you as the authorized person to act on their behalf.
Now let’s flip the situation.
Ignoring the practicalities of real life, the law says that your kids magically become an adult the day they turn 18. Regardless of their ability to wash a load of laundry or prepare a meal for themselves, our society has decided that their 18th birthday is your kids’ moment of emancipation from the totalitarian regime that is – according to your kid, anyway – your parenting.
They’re not done with high school yet, but they’re certainly capable of reading and understanding a residential lease or property disclosure statement. Right?
A Strange Solution
Unfortunately, even though our kids may not be ready to run the show at 18, as parents or even as caretakers – teachers, professors, employers – our ability to help our kids when they inevitably get in over their heads is drastically restricted just because they’re no longer a minor.
Because they’re now an adult, we can’t communicate with the bank to stop a check or deal with fraudulent use of their Social Security number or the credit card they signed up for at the college fair.
The solution is pretty straightforward, though it may seem counterintuitive: take your high school senior to visit an estate planning expert.
Your senior child and your senior parent have at least one thing in common: they’re both adults. They both need a general power of attorney and a health care power of attorney plus a last will and testament to handle their final affairs.
If your adult child signs a power of attorney designating you as their agent, you can help when they ask you to. But, more importantly, you can help in the event of an accident or catastrophe – when they can’t ask for your help. A straightforward last will and testament will let you handle their vehicle, checking account, iTunes library, or tuition bill.
When they turn 18, it may seem pretty bleak to be thinking about estate planning. But estate planning isn’t just about death. It’s also about protecting your kids while they’re alive but unable or unwilling to keep their ducks in a row.