Are Your Adult Children at Risk for Trauma?
You raise them from the smallest, most vulnerable (and adorable) angels to grown adults capable of taking care of themselves and contributing well to society. But not many parents get the luxury of saying, “I didn’t miss a thing- they know it all.” The mere thought of that statement for most parents is hilarious.
In our practice, we do see one thing that the second-generation misses, much to the chagrin of their parents. They often miss putting in place basic estate planning documents to direct how their personal and financial needs should be met at their incapacitation or death. These simple documents can seem daunting for many people- no matter their age or their wealth. But asking your adult children if they have them done can be a game changer and avoid a crisis.
Here are a few that we would recommend looking into:
Powers of Attorney for Health Care and Financial Matters: From the time a person is 18, they are a legal adult, and you can no longer make decisions for them. It doesn’t matter if they are living in your home, attending high school or even college on your dime. This can be terrifying for parents who find out their adult kid has been in an accident and is at the hospital. Sometimes just getting information can be a challenge.
A Living Will: Tells people how your adult child wants to be treated in a life-threatening health event. This is SO important when there are other people, like romantic partners, grand-children and spouses involved. Some of saddest cases in estate law are because people’s wishes weren’t known, and fights broke out between spouses and parents.
A Simple Will: This is a critical document for anyone who has children, as it appoints guardianship for their children. Without it, courts decide, and it’s not a fast or easy process.
Other documents: There are a host of other documents, beneficiary forms, and titling reviews that should also be looked at as your adult child matures financially.
How do you help prevent a nightmare? First, talk to your children (and their spouses) in a non-threatening, non-confrontational way. Come at it from a place of love and support to inquire if they have these documents in place and updated.
Second, offer to share an overview of your legal documents. It doesn’t have to be in detail, but just what you have in place, and what the document is designed to do. For example, “We have Powers of Attorney in place that will authorize someone to make health care decisions and financial decisions on our behalf if we can’t make them.”
Third, consider helping with the cost of these items, without needing to see what is in them. At 18, you should ask your estate attorney to draft the Powers of Attorney for your adult child, before much time goes by, and before they move out for sure. This can be complicated in a divorce situation, if your kid wants the “other parent” as the primary decision maker- but they can be adapted to make sure you get information, too, if your child will allow.
Another opportunity to offer to help is when your child gets married or has a child. Parents routinely contribute to a wedding or a college fund, but this can be equally, if not more beneficial, as a gift.
Finally, offer again. Don’t nag and harass, but once a year or so, give them a gentle reminder that you are more than happy to help them get this done. Always let them know it’s their decision but be supportive and open.
Parenting never ends and can get more complex after the children are adults. But thinking of your kids as adults and supporting them with knowledge and love can still be impactful in their lives.