With this year's high school graduations fast becoming a distant memory, many young Virginia graduates are embarking on their first summer of legal adulthood. Whether they plan on going to college, working or otherwise, young adults surely are aware of their newfound freedom and responsibilities. Yet many may not be aware of the consequences of their adulthood status itself and the legal responsibility involved once a child turns 18.
Parents and children alike are well-advised to consider who has legal authority over a child once he or she turns 18 and the consequences of avoiding estate planning. For instance, without a durable power of attorney for health care, parents may be unable to gather necessary medical information about their adult children or make important decisions for the child if he or she becomes incapacitated. This is because the child is now considered a legal adult; therefore even parents may not make decisions on the child's behalf without legal authority.
In the absence of appropriate documents, or in the case of children with special needs, parents may need to go to court to become their adult child's legal guardian in the event the child is incapacitated. Upon becoming a legal guardian, a parent can then make decisions in the best interests of the child, such as appropriate medical decisions.
Aside from the medical context, parents also need to obtain a power of attorney to make property decisions on behalf of their adult children. This planning is essential to allowing the parent to make financial decisions on behalf of the child, such as handling certain bills.
Based on the importance of the medical and financial decisions involved, parents and adult children benefit immensely from estate planning. With even minimal planning, individuals can ensure their personal and family needs are taken care of in the case of an unfortunate event.
Source: Chicago Daily Herald, "Your teenager is now an adult, but what does that really mean?" Jean Murphy, July 15, 2012