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An important tale for graduates…. Estate Planning is not just for the old! By Monica Goel Partner at TLD Law

As you graduate and embark on a new frontier…. it’s important to consider the appropriate life planning that should be done before you start your new adventures in life, whether it be a new job, travels, or college.

If the recent tragic events in Orlando teach us anything, it’s that our innocence can be shattered by a single act and our health can be threatened by illness or accident.

Once a young adult turns 18, their parents are no longer guardians who can act on their behalf and make medical decisions. A court ordered conservatorship will be required in order for the parents to make decisions for an unmarried adult that is 18 years old or older.

I recently represented a family wherein their 18 year old daughter was struck by illness a few weeks into her first year at college. Dad immediately traveled to the college campus to be with her and found himself helpless to make medical decisions. Due to the new HIPPA regulations, (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is a law that was enacted in 1996 that protects patient confidentiality), Dad could not even obtain medical updates from the hospital.

Once daughter was well enough to travel for hospitalization in Southern California, I assisted the family to obtain a court conservatorship over her so that mom and dad could make medical decisions and access her medical records. Of course, this came at a cost with substantial filing and legal fees. All of this could have been avoided if she had executed a Health Care Directive before leaving for college which appointed mom and dad as agents to make medical decision in the event that she was unable to do so for herself.

California law provides each of us the right to appoint an agent to carry forth our health care wishes should we become unable to make decision for ourselves. This includes end of life decisions. Health care directives are often also called “living wills.”

One of the most important reasons for naming a health care agent is to have someone you trust available to make important medical decisions if you cannot do so. You may add instructions so that you agent will follow your wishes.

You may revoke or amend the health care directive at any time as your life changes (marriage, divorce, etc). Your agent does not have the authority to authorize commitment to a mental health treatment facility against your wishes. Your agent will have the right to (1) consent or refuse care, treatment; (2) select doctors or health care providers; (3) Approve tests, surgery and medication; (4) Authorize withholding or withdrawal of nutrition and hydration, including resuscitation; and (5) make anatomical gifts, authorize autopsy and make final arrangements for your remains (burial or cremation).

You must sign and date the directive. Your signature must be witnessed before a notary public or two adult witnesses.

We recommend that you do a health care directive in conjunction with an overall estate plan package. A young adult can execute a will, health care directive, and financial power of attorney. A financial power of attorney is a document which empowers an agent to make financial decisions in the event of incapacity including, but not limited to, paying bills, dealing with health insurance claims, and filing taxes.

Young or old, we are never too young (or old) to do the right life planning. It is important that we evaluate our needs at every stage of life, including those of recent high school graduates. While they may not own property or assets requiring a living trust, the proper will, health care directive and financial power of attorney can and should be implemented before they embark on their future.

At TLD Law, we are happy to include an estate planning package for young adults when doing a family’s trust package. Established over 50 years ago to protect families, today our offices are located across Southern California in Beverly Hills, Downey, Long Beach and Irvine.

Please contact us so that we can tailor an estate planning package that meets your individual needs.

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