It is very important for you to plan your estate, which could include a living will, a last will and a trust. This can help families prepare for difficult times when you are no longer around to assist or advise them. Our lives get busier and more complicated by the day, so estate planning for young and old becomes increasingly important. Young people should consider preparing certain estate planning documents, and in particular financial powers of attorney and living wills.
At the age of 18 a young man or woman officially becomes an adult in terms of law. This means that you are entitled to make important financial, legal or health decisions about your lives. But what if something happens and you are unable to make these decisions at a critical time? Such situations can range from a small inconvenience to a life-threatening crisis, but if your estate is in order, it can speak on your behalf.
In terms of section 4 of the Wills Act, anyone who has reached the age of 16 years, or older, are allowed to draw up their own valid will.
Power of attorney
A power of attorney allows you to appoint someone you trust, like another family member, to make decisions and sign on your behalf. A durable power of attorney will allow the appointed person to handle important legal and financial matters on behalf of the grantor. In the case of a business or financial situation which involves the young adult, such as a passport or car registration renewal, it is convenient for the power of attorney to act on his/her behalf if they cannot tend to the problem. This arrangement may come in handy when there is a legal situation which requires quick action and the young adult is unable to attend.
Make sure that, if you have a general power of attorney drawn up by an attorney, that you also sign power of attorney at the bank. They have separate forms that must be sign at the bank. The power of attorney drawn up by the attorney will not be sufficient for the bank.
A living will enables you to state specific medical wishes if you are alive, but unable to communicate them. Artificial life support in the case of a coma or terminal illness is an issue often discussed in such a document. Preferences regarding administering of pain medication, artificial nutrition and other treatments can be dictated in this document. The Terry Shaivo case shows what can happen if this document is not in place. The legal battle between her husband, family and state of Florida lasted for years before she was granted her wish and taken off life support.
Start the conversation
Every family’s legal needs are different, so perhaps you should take the first step in being prepared for the worst. Remember that every time your family composition changes, like when a child is born, you need to adapt your will to include them.
Start the process and be prepared.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)