In my practice as an estate planning and elder law firm, I get asked hundreds of questions, and this one is probably one of the top five. In my personal opinion, anyone over the age of 18 years of age in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania needs to have documents in place. At a minimum, an individual should have a financial Power of Attorney, a Healthcare Power of Attorney, and a Last Will and Testament.
When a person turns 18, they are presumed to be an adult and to have capacity and majority. That means that once they turn 18, it is assumed that they can make decisions on their own. In the event of a car accident, a stroke, or some other catastrophic event, that renders the individual unable to make decisions for themselves, if they do not have a Power of Attorney in place, that individual will need to be taken into Court through a guardianship hearing in order to have someone appointed on their behalf as their guardian. Yes, anyone over the age of 18 is presumed to be able to make decisions on their own, and if they cannot, they must have a Power of Attorney in place, authorizing another individual to make decisions on their behalf.
In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, there is a healthcare statute that provides that the next of kin can make healthcare decisions. If it is an in-tact family, and mom and dad are together and alive, it may not be a huge issue if there is not a Healthcare Power of Attorney in place. But I have numerous examples, at least over 10, of cases where it was not easy for the parents because the individual was 18 years of age, and the hospital gave them a very difficult time, particularly when there were other individuals, such as significant others or fiancées involved. My opinion is don’t leave that to chance and have the documents in place, so that you do not have to worry about something like that occurring.
The final document that I think everyone over the age of 18 should have is a Last Will and Testament. This will provide where you would like your assets to go, to whom, and how they will receive them, as well as who will be in charge as the executor to be able to make decisions on behalf of your estate. In the event that you have children, you will want to name a guardian for your children, so that someone can make decisions for them and raise them in the manner you would wish.
Even millennials need to have basic estate planning done to ensure that their wishes will be taken care of upon their death. Reach out to us with any questions or comments at 717-845-5390. We’d love to chat and see how we can help you.