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Estate planning considerations arise when child reaches 18

When a child living at home turns 18, under Texas law and elsewhere, there is a change in legal status from being a minor to an adult for most purposes. For the parents, the child may still seem to be as dependent as before, but the new legal status will require some adjustments. In the area of estate planning, the new adult will be well advised to take some steps to provide some planning protections.

For example, a durable power of attorney should  be put in place because anyone is subject to becoming incapacitated due to sudden illness or accidental causes. With the young adult still living at home, it may be desirable for one or both parents to be able to sign the child's name to legal documents and necessary transactions in the event of temporary or permanent incapacity. This is a relatively inexpensive tool that can save one's estate time and money in the unpredictable future.

As a matter of convenience, it may be wise for parents to join on a child's bank account as joint owner so that the funds can be accessed in an emergency situation. For other accounts or investments, the same rationale may apply. If the young adult has significant assets owned personally, a will may be appropriate. Investigate also a living trust to avoid probate where appropriate.

Documents for authorizing medical treatment should be prepared and executed by the child who has recently entered adulthood. A living will with instructions on allowing or disallowing life-maintenance modalities may be an important choice. The parents should also obtain a power of attorney for health care to make it official that a parent has the right to speak to doctors on behalf of the child.

Whether in Texas or another state, a family's best interests will generally benefit from some basic estate planning when a son or daughter reaches age 18. The chances are that the documentation will happily not be needed for the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, the rewards of being prepared outweigh the detriments that may be experienced if nothing is done.


Source: montereyherald.com, "Kenneth Petersen, Financial Planning: Parents and the age of majority", Kenneth Petersen, Jan. 13, 2016

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