Personal Finance: Basic Estate Planning Documents for Adult Children

estate planning for adult children

In last week’s blog post, I celebrated my eldest son’s 18th birthday, even as I nursed a twinge of regret (okay, more than a twinge) over the end of his childhood. While our children may remain financially dependent well beyond their teen-age years, they are legally independent once they turn the age of majority. In New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Florida, that’s 18. As your adult children enter the world of college and career, there may be no better gift you can give them – and yourself – than solid estate planning documents already in place.

Mercifully, it’s rare that unspeakable tragedies occur when our children leave home for college or career. But they do happen. Take my own son’s passion for rough-and-tumble rugby, which already has generated a few unplanned trips to the clinic before he’s even left the nest … and he plans to continue playing in college. We certainly hope we’ll never need to use his health care power of attorney, but we’re scheduled with our attorney to sign those documents tomorrow. Between today’s stringent healthcare privacy regulations and the ever-present potential for confusion and miscommunication during a crisis, it’s much better to have these and other proper documents in place well in advance of any need to access medical records or exercise emergency decision-making capabilities.

That’s why it’s important to have a discussion with your adult child during normal times. Explain the benefits of executing these important documents and legally naming you (their parents) to make financial and medical decisions if they are unable to do so. Once your adult children are ready to do their own planning, they can designate their own decision-makers.

Overall Estate Planning (Wills and Trusts)
How do you get started? First, evaluate your own estate planning. Are your own plans in place? Do they need to be updated or reviewed? If so, this would be a good time to contact an estate-planning attorney to discuss your own as well as your child’s planning needs in unison. Costs can vary, but expect stand-alone child’s document preparation to cost in the range of a few hundred dollars. While you can purchase estate-planning software and do it yourself, we recommend working with an estate-planning attorney to ensure that the plan fits your needs and conforms to all current laws in your state.

Advance Medical Directive
Many states have now combined the health care power of attorney and living will documents into the advance medical directive. The advance medical directive appoints a health care proxy, which is a fancy name for the individual who will make decisions about your health care if you are unable to make decisions on your own. The document also contains instructions on what you want to happen should you require artificial life support.

Durable Power of Attorney
A power of attorney names a person who can make decisions about your money and property if you are unable to make them yourself. In many states, a power of attorney document becomes invalid if you become incompetent or incapacitated – which is exactly when you need someone to make decisions on your behalf. A durable power of attorney, however, remains valid should you become incompetent or incapacitated.

Similar to a will and an advance medical directive, a durable power of attorney can be composed without a lawyer, but minutiae such as how the document needs to be recorded or notarized could result in it being invalid when put into use. Again, we recommend working with an estate-planning attorney.

Life’s Risks and Rewards
In pondering the vagaries of our stock markets, Santa Clara University Professor of Finance Meir Statman once quipped, “The real risks in life are not the stock market. If you want risk, get married. And if you want more risk have children.” (Source: Jeff Benjamin, “Meir Statman on perils of markets: ‘If you want real risk, get married’” InvestmentNews, April 29, 2013)

Truer words were never spoken. To manage the risks that matter the most, start with solid estate planning for you and your family, and be sure to keep it current as your children mature into adulthood.

SAGE Serendipity: Take that, Florida. New Jersey tops them all in Money magazine’s Best Places to Live 2013 list. Let’s hope that will convince Dominic to pick a college close to home.

Sheri Iannetta Cupo, CFP®, is Founding Principal of SAGE Advisory Group, based in Morristown, NJ, an independent, Fee-Only Registered Investment Advisory firm, specializing in providing busy professionals and their families with holistic financial life planning and investment management services. You can find more here: where this post originally appeared. You can also connect with Sheri on Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Looking for more articles on Personal Finance? Try these on Project Eve:

Personal Finance: Basic Estate Planning Documents for Adult Children

In Personal Finance Why CFP® Certification Counts

Personal Finance: In Stocks or Bonds Active Management Is Ill-Advised

Personal Finance: Never Mind Your Wallet – What’s In Your Portfolio?



  1. Aquí encontrará el Servicio Técnico Oficial Junkers no oficial más cercano a su hogar, acceda a los profesionales más calificados para garantizar el perfecto funcionamiento de su equipo, bajo las mejores condiciones de seguridad y con óptimo ahorro de energía.

  2. 147602 69448Hello! I would wish to supply a large thumbs up for your exceptional info you can have here about this post. Ill be coming back to your weblog website for further soon. 417815

  3. 90369 985340Spot lets start work on this write-up, I in fact believe this wonderful site requirements additional consideration. Ill a lot more likely be once again you just read additional, thank you that details. 302597

  4. 57114 504082We offer the most effective practical and most applicable solutions. All our Sydney plumbers are experienced and qualified and are able to swiftly assess your dilemma and find the top solution. 771088

  5. 182605 739875An fascinating discussion may be valued at comment. I do believe which you simply write read far more about this subject, it may not often be a taboo topic but normally persons are too few to dicuss on such topics. To a higher. Cheers 614458

  6. 357840 253582Basically received my 1st cavity. Rather devastating. I would like a super smile. Looking a whole lot far more choices. Numerous thanks for the write-up 232954

  7. 394720 307074Im not certain exactly why but this web website is loading extremely slow for me. Is anyone else having this issue or is it a dilemma on my end? Ill check back later and see if the issue nonetheless exists. 580636

  8. 499388 459101bless you with regard to the specific weblog post ive really been searching with regard to this kind of advice on the net for sum time these days hence with thanks 224160


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here