Young adults are no longer legally dependent children after they reach the age of 18. However, oftentimes, these new adults remain practically dependent on their parents – they may continue living at home while they start going to college, begin trade school or pursue entry-level positions with local companies or rely on their parents for financial support while pursuing these things. Not much thought is given to what happens if they do not have an estate plan at such a young age. Even new adults that are not dependent on parents at all and move out and begin supporting themselves immediately are not often thinking about the importance of estate planning. These young but legal adults can be in a vulnerable position without estate planning paperwork.
According to the Health and Safety Code 313.004 states in part, that if an adult patient is comatose, incapacitated, or otherwise mentally or physically incapable of communication and does not have a legal guardian or an agent under a medical power of attorney who is reasonably available after a reasonably diligent inquiry, an adult surrogate from the following list, in order of priority, who has decision-making capacity, is reasonably available and is willing to consent to medical treatment on behalf of the patient may consent to medical treatment on behalf of the patient:
(1) the patient’s spouse;
(2) the patient’s adult children;
(3) the patient’s parents; or
(4) the patient’s nearest living relative.
What happens if a young adult, not married, has divorced parents who do not get along and now have to agree on treatment? Or a young incapacitated adult is estranged from one or both parents? Or a young adult is engaged and would prefer that their future spouse make medical decisions for them?
These and other various scenarios illustrate the importance of a new adult exercising control and empowering someone they trust to communicate their preferences in the event of a medical emergency or incapacity or to make medical decisions on their behalf or even exercise power over their finances to pay bills or handle other non-medical issues in the event of a disability or incapacity.
Once someone turns 18, they have all of the rights and responsibilities of any other adult in Texas. The right to privacy and control over one’s affairs and finances are among the most crucial. Financial and medical powers of attorney can help people by giving others the authority to act on their behalf in unusual circumstances. Young adults may also want to draft advance directives explaining their specific wishes regarding medical care.
Ideally, young adults may never need to use those documents. While those who recently turned 18 in Texas often do not have sizable personal resources or legal dependents, they are always at risk of an accident or medical emergency that could leave them unable to manage their own affairs.
Realizing that estate planning can benefit even the youngest of adults can help people protect themselves in an unpredictable world.