June 2024

A client’s overall estate plan typically includes planning documents such as a Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, and Living Will. However, these documents can also be very helpful as standalone documents for young adults who are no longer minors. They

can be especially useful for those who do not live at home full time. These documents allow the named agent or agents to act on an individual’s behalf in various legal, financial, and health care related matters, and can provide a measure of comfort knowing that there is a way for a parent or other named agent to step in to help, whether it be a medical emergency, interceding on the individual’s behalf with an insurance company, or a banking issue while the individual is travelling internationally. Being involved in the process of preparing these documents also serves to introduce young adults to estate planning and can act as a steppingstone to more robust planning as needs and life circumstances change.

A brief summary of each of these three documents is provided below.

Power of Attorney: a Power of Attorney is a document used to name one or more persons to act as an

agent on the individual’s behalf in many legal and financial matters, such as preparing and filing tax returns, buying or selling real estate, and accessing bank accounts. Multiple agents can be named to act at the same time, and successor (backup) agents can also be named. The ability of an agent to act is not dependent on the incapacity of the individual, but a named agent cannot act under a Power of Attorney until that named agent has signed the document in front of a notary public. An agent named under a Power of Attorney cannot make medical or health care related decisions on behalf of the individual.

Health Care Proxy: a Health Care Proxy is a document used to name one or more persons to act as an agent on the principal’s behalf in making medical and health care related decisions should the individual become incapacitated. Successor agents can be named, but under the applicable law in New York, only one agent can act at any one time.

Living Will: a Living Will is a document that often accompanies a Health Care Proxy. It is used by the individual to provide guidance to the individual’s agent(s) in making medical decisions under certain  circumstance. A Living Will is not required to accompany a Health Care Proxy, and is not the only way for an individual to provide guidance to named health care agents.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you (or your young adult) would like to discuss any of these documents or any other estate planning needs further.