Launching into Adulthood: The Importance of Estate Planning for High School Graduates


Congratulations to you parents who have graduating seniors!  Seeing your child accept their diploma and awards during the ceremony is exciting, and fills your mind with visions of their future.  This is the culmination of a lot of years of hard work.  You have taught them skills and sports and manners, helped them learn about having a job and managing money, and leading a balanced, healthy life.  18 years old now, and they have their lives ahead of them, of course with a little help from you.

So, a few weeks after graduation, you stop by your new grad’s doctor’s office to make an appointment for him.  Except they need him to stop by.  After that, it’s off to the bank, where you can no longer access the custodial account you set up when she was little.

These are all hallmarks of your child growing up, but may also present some logistical problems for you and your child, particularly during their first years out of the house, during military service, college or travelling.

So as part of your graduation gift to your child, I recommend a first “starter” set of estate planning documents:  the power of attorney and healthcare surrogate.

Power of Attorney.  A power of attorney allows a parent to access an adult child’s financial life, interact with the IRS, establish accounts and investments, pay bills, forward their mail, speak with vendors and landlords and school bursars, and many other useful things.  This helpful document establishes the parent as an “agent” for the child, allowing the parent to perform certain tasks.  It is up to the parent and child to decide how much or little to use this document, but it can be very helpful for managing money across the state, over state lines or internationally.

Healthcare Surrogate.  This healthcare power of attorney allows you to make medical decisions and obtain healthcare information that would otherwise be protected by HIPAA.  Many parents are surprised to learn they do not automatically receive access to this information.  Healthcare surrogates can be written so this authority is only granted if the child is not able to act on their or, or can be written so this authority co-exists with the child’s authority.

These simple documents create flexibility and peace of mind for you and your grown children as they begin life as adults.

Andy Reed