I know what you’re thinking: you’re young and healthy and you take care of yourself. So between the kids’ schedules, your job, and all the other demands in your life, why should legal planning be a priority? The reason is because incapacity or illness can happen to anyone, regardless of age. And if something should happen to you, who will raise your children?
Need for Healthcare Proxy, Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney: All the reasons these documents are important for other individuals are just as important for you. Should you become unable to state your wishes for healthcare or property management, these documents will formally and clearly state what your wishes are. There is a seminal case in NY ( Matter of Shah ) where a father was in a car accident which rendered him completely incompetent, and because he had failed to prepare these documents, his wife had to resort to a court proceeding to allow her to make healthcare and property management decisions for him. The time and expense resulting from this failure to plan all could have been avoided at a fraction of the cost and time with the execution of these documents.
Need for Trusts and Last Will and Testament: a revocable living trust is an ideal way for an individual to manage property and provide for minor beneficiaries. Trusts, whether created during lifetime or through a Last Will and Testament allow a parent to provide for the needs of minor children without giving the child the absolute right to spend. This is accomplished by appointing a trustee to manage the child’s property during minority (or until any age the parent chooses) and limiting the right to use the funds for certain reasons (e.g. college, new car etc) and not others (e.g. keg party or gambling binge).
Need for Life Insurance Trusts: Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts are one way to build wealth for an estate and may also replace assets used for estate taxes. This may be important to replace the income in the event of the demise of a wage earner
The Need for Estate Planning: It is therefore just as imperative, if not more so, for you to prepare a Last Will and Testament that clearly states who will raise your kids if you are deceased. If you are unmarried or your spouse predeceases you, or dies simultaneously with you, your children will inherit your estate outright. A Living Trust or alternatively a Last Will and Testament with a testamentary trust allows you to provide for your children without giving them full unfettered access to your assets.
Minor Children Travelling with Nonparents: Should your children be travelling with friends or other family members, you can also formally designate another to make healthcare decisions for your minor children during travel. The authority you give can be limited to the period of travel, or can remain in effect indefinitely.
Need to Appoint a Standby Guardian: You can also appoint another as guardian of your minor children if you should become incapacitated or terminally ill. The guardian does not receive authority to act unless you become mentally incapacitated or physically incapacitated to the point that you are unable to care for your children.
Appointment of Guardian for Persons Considered Mentally Retarded or Persons with other Developmental Disabilities: A parent’s right to make healthcare and other decisions basically ends when the child reaches the age of 18. However, there are instances where a child is not able to live on their own due to a debilitating condition, such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, other neurological impairments or traumatic head injuries. In this instance, the parent or other would be guardian can petition to be appointed permanent guardian of that child to the extent needed. This can be of only the “person” or the “property” of the individual or both.