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Estate Planning for an 18 Year Old in Florida

Jumping a chasm - estate planning for 18 year old

Get a plan in place, right away.

When your children turn 18 years old, estate planning should be their (and your) number-one priority. 

Here’s why: At 18 years old, your kids become legal adults in the eyes of the law, so you no longer have the authority to make decisions regarding their healthcare, nor will you have access to their financial accounts if something happens to them.  With you no longer in charge, your young adult would be extremely vulnerable in the event they become incapacitated and lose their ability to make decisions about their own medical care.

|| Putting a plan in place could literally save their lives. ||

If your kids are already 18 years old, or about to hit that milestone, it is crucial that you discuss and have them sign the following documents.

heart health care directives

Advance Healthcare Directives

Advance healthcare directives generally include a Designation of Healthcare Surrogate (also known as a medical power of attorney); Living Will Declaration; and HIPAA authorization form.

Designation of Healthcare Surrogate

A Designation of Healthcare Surrogate allows your child to grant you (or someone else) the legal authority to make healthcare decisions on their behalf in the event they become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions for themselves.

|| For example, a Designation of Healthcare Surrogate would allow you to make decisions about your child’s medical treatment if he or she is in a car accident or is hospitalized and unable to communicate their own medical wishes to the doctors. ||

Without a Designation of Healthcare Surrogate in place in this situation, you would have to petition the court to become your (now adult) child’s legal guardian. While a parent is typically the court’s first choice for guardian, the guardianship process can be both slow and expensive.

Living Will Declaration

Another advance healthcare directive is a Living Will Declaration. In Florida, a Living Will is a written statement indicating the medical care, particularly life-preserving/saving or resuscitation measures, a person wants in the event he or she becomes unable to make his or her own decisions.

While a Designation of Healthcare Surrogate allows you to make healthcare decisions on your child’s behalf during their incapacity, a Living Will is an advance directive that allows your child to decide for themself how they want medical decisions to be made for them, particularly at the end of their life and in situations where your child cannot decide for themself. 

For example, in a Living Will allows your child to provide specific guidance and let you know if and when they want life support removed if they are in a terminal, end-stage, or persistent vegetative state.

In addition to documenting how your child wants their medical care managed, a Living Will can also include instructions about who should be able to visit them in the hospital and even what kind of food they should be fed.

|| Without a Living Will, your child’s legal guardian may impose medical directions that your child does not want for themself. ||

The directions in a Living Will are especially vital if your child has specific dietary preferences. For example, if he or she is a vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, or takes specific supplements, these things should be noted in their Living Will.

It is also important if you do not know all of your child’s friends or who they would want to be part of their medical decision-making should they become unable to make decisions for themself.

HIPAA Authorization form

When creating advance healthcare directives, another issue to consider is HIPAA laws. These laws state that only legally authorized individuals are allowed to access your medical records.  Therefore, once your child becomes 18 years old, no one—even parents—is legally authorized to access your child’s medical records without prior written permission.  However, a properly drafted advance healthcare directives include a signed HIPAA authorization form, so you can immediately access their medical records to make informed decisions about your adult child’s healthcare. 

Running forward

Durable Power of Attorney

Should your child become incapacitated, you may also need the ability to access and manage their finances, and this requires your child to grant you a durable power of attorney.

A Durable Power of Attorney document gives you the authority to manage your adult child’s financial and legal matters, such as paying their tuition, applying for student loans, managing their bank accounts, and collecting government benefits. Without this document, you will have to petition the court for such authority.  As mentioned above, this can be a slow and expensive process that could have been avoided with the proper pre-planning.

Last Will & Testament

If your child is earning an income, started a business, accumulated valuable collectible items, or otherwise has financial accounts and assets in their own name, then a Last Will & Testament should be included in the estate planning for an 18 year old in Florida.

A Last Will & Testament allows your child to legally decide who gets their money and things when they pass away.  This avoids any confusion or family in-fighting, and helps streamline the probate process in the event your child passes away.  Without a Last Will & Testament, the Court will decide who gets your child’s money and things, and those decisions may not be what your adult child wanted.  

Did you know: The intestacy laws in Florida state that if someone passes away without a Last Will, their money and things go to their oldest living family member?  That means your adult child’s grandparents would get their money and things before you, the parent.

driving a car

Peace of Mind

As parents, it is normal to experience anxiety as your child grows up and becomes an adult. While you cannot totally prevent your child from an unforeseen illness or injury, you can at least rest assured that if your child ever does need your help after he or she turns 18 years old, you will have the legal authority to provide it.

Together with your soon-to-be or already-turned 18 year old, schedule a no-cost initial consultation with us to learn more and get started planning today!

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In this article:

When your child turns 18, you should discuss the importance of estate planning and ensure your child has certain legal documents in place for their protection out in the world.
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