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COVID-19 Has Dramatically Altered the Plans of Many Young Adults, But It Has Not Altered the Importance of Having an Estate Plan

Young adults who have recently turned 18 are facing uncertainty as it relates to school, living situations, the workplace and life in general as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Whether or not they will be heading off to college – or attending a virtual version thereof – may still be up in the air, but one thing that remains unchanged is that these now-adults suddenly have their own legal authority and no longer fall under the authority of their parents as natural guardians.

As soon as a person reaches age 18 they become an adult under Ohio law. In the context of estate planning, this means said young adult is now able to contract on their own behalf and direct their own health care. If the young adult becomes incapacitated, they no longer have a legal guardian who could step in to make a financial or health care decision for them as they did prior to the age of 18. As such, if the young adult cannot make a decision due to incapacitation, loved ones may be forced to go to Court to obtain guardianship. The guardian then has legal permission to make key financial or health care decisions on the incapacitated young adult’s behalf, but not before a public and often costly hearing along with on-going reporting requirements.

Young adults, even those without a spouse, significant other or their own children, should strongly consider implementing some foundational estate planning tools. At a minimum, every adult (young or not) should have financial and health care powers of attorney in place and should consider if a living will declaration is appropriate for them.

Financial Power of Attorney

financial power of attorney (POA) lets an adult appoint another individual to make financial decisions on their behalf. One specific type of POA, a durable version, is one that continues to be effective when the individual who created it becomes incapacitated. This type of POA should be implemented to allow a family member or other individual to help manage one’s affair when they cannot do so themselves.

Health Care Power of Attorney

An Ohio health care power of attorney allows a person to designate a family member or other individual to make health care decisions for them at any point when they are unable to communicate on their own. This includes all facets of medical decision making and can also include the decision with regard to the withholding or withdrawal of life-support if a living will is not also in place.

Living Will

Under Ohio law, a living will allows a person to outline their wishes with regard to end of life healthcare in the event that the person is unable to communicate on their own. A living will specifically addresses the withdrawal or withholding of artificial nutrition and hydration in a situation where the declarant who made the living will is in a permanently unconscious or terminally ill state. This document can be very important to ensure one’s wishes are adhered to. Additionally, this document can take a great burden off of a family member or other person who is otherwise responsible for health care decision making under a health care power of attorney.

Get Started Now

It’s never too soon to get the foundation of an estate plan in place. As it makes sense, a Last Will & Testament and trusts can be considered, but the essential disability documents discussed in this article should be considered by every adult as soon as they turn 18. If you or your now-adult loved ones need assistance implementing an estate plan, contact your attorney at Carlile Patchen & Murphy or any member of the Family Wealth & Estate Planning Group.

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