National Healthcare Decision Day – Even Young People Have Accidents and Unexpected Illnesses
Estate planning is for rich old people, right?
Wrong! (I mean, we get it but you’re still wrong.)
Everyone over 18 needs some level of estate planning.That magical age when your parents are no longer allowed to make your doctor appointments or handle your savings account for you because you’re legally considered an adult. Yes, it’s fun and opens up a whole new world, but it also means you have to make adult decisions. Even the not-so-exciting ones.
You’re young and healthy, though, so why should you care about estate planning? Documents like advance health care directives, durable powers of attorney, wills and trusts. Because your health and life expectancy are not guaranteed. Even when you’re young, life can change in the blink of an eye.
Did you know that once you turn 18, if you don’t have an advance health care directive and durable power of attorney and you lose mental capacity (due to illness or an accident) that your family cannot make decisions for you and handle your affairs? They are headed to conservatorship (a super expensive and invasive court process that lasts for the rest of your life while you are incapacitated). This is avoidable by having an advance health care directive and durable power of attorney!
Take the tragic case of Terri Schiavo, for example. After suffering cardiac arrest at the tender age of 26, Terri fell into a persistent vegetative state, which meant that she showed no signs of brain function and was kept alive entirely by machines. Because she had no advance health care directive, her husband and parents found themselves in a bitter legal battle over who could make decisions for Terri. Her husband believed that she would not have wanted to live like that while her parents believed that she had quality of life.
A long, heated, and very public legal battle ensued. For 15-years, Terri’s husband and parents fought through the courts to determine Terri’s fate. In the end, after multiple court cases, public outcry and opinion, and even Federal legislation signed at the 11thhour by President Bush, her feeding tubes were removed, and she passed away 13-days later in a hospice room in Florida.
15 years of family trauma and God knows how much in legal fees, all because Terri had no advance health care directive to state her wishes and give someone legal authority to make decisions.
But that’s an extreme example, right? Terri’s case may be memorable, but it’s certainly not alone. According to multiple studies, folks under 65 are slacking when it comes to advance health care directives and other important estate planning documents. By one account, more than 66% of people under 65 do not have a health care directive. Plus, 78% of Millennials and 65% of GenX’ers do not have their estate planning documents done. At any moment, any one of them could experience a life-changing accident just like Terri’s, and their family members and loved ones would be burdened with making very difficult decisions and often destined for court spending tens of thousands of dollars. All of this is avoidable with the proper planning.
National Healthcare Decision Day,recognized on April 16th, hopes to change all that. The movement was launched in 2008 to “inspire, educate, and empower the public” about the importance of estate planning and health care directives.
Estate planning is ultimately about making sure your wishes get honored and staying out of court more than wealth. Basic estate planning documents include an advance health care directive, durable power of attorney, will and trust. They each provide legal authority for someone to handle your affairs should become incapacitated or pass away.
You may feel too young to need an estate plan, but trust me, you’re not.
Need some examples of why? Here are just a few:
- You have an opinion– Terri Schiavo probably would have had an opinion about her life support, but she never got to speak it. It’s important to put your wishes about how you want to be cared for in writing.
- You have a little bit of money, at least– Whether your bank account has $29 or $500,000, you better decide what to do with it. If your assets are worth over $150,000, probate will be triggered (with a few exceptions). This court process is expensive and totally avoidable.
- You share things– Social media is likely a major part of your life, storing your favorite photos and moments, and even financial or personal information. Who gets access to those accounts if you become incapacitated or die? Without a plan, family can be devastated by having no access.
- You have people you care about– One of the most meaningful reasons to have a basic estate plan is to save your loved ones the grief that comes with wasting time, money and emotions in court once you lose capacity or pass away. Make these decisions now, so that your parents, spouse, or significant are not burdened when they should be caring for you or grieving.
Becoming an adult is a rite of passage that comes with treasured freedom – and also real responsibility. But, no matter what stage of life you are in, we all know that tomorrow is not a guarantee. National Healthcare Decision Day serves as a reminder, for every person, regardless of age, to plan ahead, express their wishes and ensure they are honored when it is time.
If you’re ready to take the next step, we can help you develop a health care directive and estate plan that fits your age, needs, and stage of life. At Goldfarb & Luu, we make estate planning and elder law everything you always thought it wasn't: simple, accessible, and enjoyable.
And don’t worry; we speak fluent Millennial and GenX (Baby Boomer too).