Rite of Passage–College or Work?

In my last blog, I suggested that parents start a new high school graduation trend—a rite of passage— for all those soon-to-be high school grads. Help them assemble their essential life documents. 

The COVID pandemic has reminded us that any day could bring a medical emergency. Car accidents, riots in urban areas, gun violence, avalanches, slip and falls—it’s a dangerous world. We all need these documents if we want to control our own destiny, a right that everyone should guard zealously.

So now, as they leave your sphere of influence and legally become adults, give them the underpinnings of security for the future. Prepare them for the idea that it doesn’t take millions in assets to need these basic legal documents.

Most essential life documents, at least in their basic forms, can be developed for free, although having an attorney review them is recommended. Here’s the basic list:

  1. A durable health care power of attorney (healthcare POA). This document authorizes someone to make healthcare decisions for your graduate if they are unable to speak for themselves.
  2. A living will or health care directive. This gives specific direction about a person’s desires for medical treatment in the event they are unable to give informed consent. Sometimes a living will is combined with the durable healthcare POA.
  1. A HIPAA privacy authorization. HIPAA, an acronym for The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, governs protected health information. The details in this form determine with whom healthcare providers may interact and the persons or organizations with whom records may be shared.

The forms for 1 through 3 are available for free through the Missouri Bar at http://missourilawyershelp.org/legal-topics/. If you want to take these conversations one step further, check out Carla Baum’s website, https://1life1decision1story.com. The Missouri Bar also has a free download titled, “Turning 18? Some Things About the Law You Need to Know.” All recommended.

  1. Durable financial power-of-attorney. This grants someone the legal authority to handle financial issues if you are incapacitated. Find free sample documents on opendoc.com, but honestly, you want an attorney for this.
  1. A will. Why does an 18-year-old need a will? Because even if they don’t have assets now, they will in the future. And in the world of #adulting101, adults should control their own lives, not delegate their rights to the government. Simple wills are inexpensive and can save time and money if the unthinkable happens. As stated before, all of these documents should be reviewed by an attorney.
  1. If not a will, at a minimum, teach your graduate about beneficiary designations. All bank accounts and assets like vehicles should have at least one beneficiary designated (preferably a secondary as well), in the event the unthinkable happens. The acronym, TOD, or title on death, is yet another way to handle this. Google it; you’ll find helpful reminders about how these work—another great way to educate your graduate about their adulting responsibilities.

Those are the essential life documents every high school graduate should have, along with a reminder that this is not a “once and done” proposition. As life changes, these vital documents and beneficiary designations should be reviewed and updated. 

Ok, parents, take the challenge—let’s start a new rite of passage. Teaching your graduate about these basics could be the best gift you ever give them. 

#highschoolgraduation #graduation #parenting #adulting #personalfinance #finances

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