When Should I begin Estate Planning?

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I was recently asked the question, “How old should I be when I start my estate planning?” It’s a great question, and the answer surprised her: Estate planning should begin as soon as someone legally becomes an adult (18 years old).

At 18, you don’t need complicated estate planning, but there are several documents that all adults ought to have. You have likely heard of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This Federal law (and its California equivalent) made it illegal for health care providers to share medical information with someone other than the patient without specific authorization.  Similarly, an adult’s financial information also is protected from disclosure. These privacy laws are great, but what if you (or your adult child) are unable to make medical or financial decisions?

These three documents allow an adult to designate someone to make medical and financial decisions for them:

1) Advance Health Care Directive

An Advance Health Care Directive is a document that names an agent who is responsible to make health care decisions for you. There are several different versions, but at Thatcher | Law Group, we use a form that allows you to also make important end of life decisions as well.

2) Durable General Power of Attorney

A durable General Power of Attorney allows an individual to name an agent to make financial decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable. Each specific type of financial decision is identified separately. This document can either last indefinitely (“durable”) or it can be given an expiration date.

3) HIPAA Disclosure Authorization

This document provides specific written authorization for medical health care professionals to release your medical information to the person you have designated.

A young adult may also consider writing a will. If a young adult has little or no assets, no children of their own, and wants their possessions to go to their parents, California’s laws of intestacy will likely cover their needs. If your situation is more complicated than that, then a written will or trust may be appropriate.

If you have any questions, or want to begin the estate planning process, please contact Thatcher | Law to schedule a consultation.

Wishing you peace.