Q: What estate planning documents should my son, who just turned 18 and is planning to attend college in the fall, have in place? -Prudent Papa


A: Dear Prudent: At age 18, your son is now an adult in the eyes of the law. This means you no longer have the authority to make decisions regarding his medical care, nor will you have access to his finances if something happens to him. Since you are no longer in charge, your son’s greatest liability from a planning perspective is what would happen if he were incapacitated by illness or injury and become unable to make decisions on his own behalf. To prepare for this scenario, you should have your son sign three key documents: medical power of attorney, a living will, and durable financial power of attorney.

Medical power of attorney allows your son to grant you (or someone else) the legal authority to make healthcare decisions on his behalf in the event he is incapacitated and unable to make decisions for himself. Used in conjunction with medical power of attorney, a living will provides specific guidance about how your son would want his medical decisions made in the event he is incapacitated.

Finally, if your son is incapacitated, you may also need the ability to access and manage his finances, and this is done with durable financial power of attorney, which gives you the authority to manage his financial and legal matters, such as paying tuition and managing his bank accounts.

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