Avoiding Family Chaos: Why Your Adult Children Need Wills, Too

When a family member dies suddenly, it creates chaos in nearly every family. More often than not, disputes over property and money only intensify the grief everyone is already suffering. As older adults, it’s likely that we’ve taken steps to minimize that risk, such as maintaining an up-to-date will and setting up a family trust. However, have your adult children done the same?

For younger adults, the time for needing a will can feel like a hundred years away, but for older adults, we’re all too aware of the reality behind youth’s perceived invincibility. Accidents and illness can happen at any time, leaving many ill-prepared families scrambling to cope.

Three Legal Documents Your Adult Children Must Have

Your adult child may be among the many who don’t realize that if there’s no estate plan or will in place, the State will make decisions on behalf of the deceased. It will decide who will be named as guardian(s) of any minor children and who will inherit the person’s assets. Unfortunately, the odds of those decisions being made exactly as your child would have wanted is slim, and your family and close friends may end up battling to have their interpretations of his or her wishes heard.

On the other hand, many have completed a will but don’t understand that having someone act on their behalf while they are incapacitated requires different legal documentation than a will. For example, if your adult son is unconscious in the hospital and your family is disagreeing on which medical decisions should be made, his will means nothing because he has not died. Similarly, if an accident were to leave your adult daughter unable to make decisions for an indefinite period of time, it may not be clear who will be making those decisions regarding her finances, living situations, and future.

At the very least, there are three legal documents that every adult should complete, regardless of their age or level of income: last will and testament, advanced directive for health care, and power of attorney.

Preparing Your Adult Children for an Inheritance

Despite their younger age, it’s important for adult children to be updating their legal documents every one to three years. Life circumstance can change quickly at any age, but this is especially true in a person’s 20s, 30s, and 40s, when marriages, divorces, new babies, and career movements are common.

Your children’s need to have their affairs in order only intensifies as they get closer to inheriting the assets in your estate. First, a sudden influx of money or property may impact other legal agreements in your adult child’s life, such as alimony, child support, or business risks (if he or she is a business owner). Second, your children need to be sure that their documentation is updated, in case the unthinkable were to happen to them shortly after you pass.

For many families, using a single law firm to handle the estate planning of parents and all adult children allows the peace of mind that the overall plan is understood by and works for all the interested parties. After all, every parent wants to know that their children have the best possible chances of continued success, regardless of the children’s ages.

At Gaslowitz Frankel, we work with families of all sizes to ensure each family member’s best interests are protected. We find that bringing the parents and adult children together during the drafting of an estate plan minimizes the risk of litigation later in life. If you’re looking to create an estate plan that takes care of your children after you pass or if you already have an estate plan in place but want to make sure your adult children are also prepared, it’s time to speak with the expert attorneys at Gaslowitz Frankel by calling 404-892-9797.