As Natasha Bedingfield wrote, “The pen’s in my hand, ending unplanned.” You might ask yourself, as an eighteen year old or young college student, why do I need to plan anything? All you have to do is look at the case of Terri Schiavo (and if you don’t know who that is, google her name) to know that it doesn’t matter what age you are, things can happen and you should have a basic plan in place.
Anyone who is over the age of eighteen should have the basics – a Will, a Durable Power of Attorney, a Living Will and Healthcare Surrogate. As an eighteen year old, or a college student, you may be thinking to yourself, why would I need a Will? I don’t have anything yet. Well, you may be overlooking an asset, such as life insurance (if there is no beneficiary listed, it will go through probate) or accident insurance. Do you own a bank account or a car? These could be assets that would be subject to probate in Florida (in which case, having a Will tells the probate court who you want to have those assets). Maybe you don’t have a good relationship with your father, but you want your mom to have everything? If you do not state that in the Will (that you are leaving everything to one parent over the other), the state of Florida says that both of your parents share equally.
What if you are away at college or working in a different state from your parents and something happens to you causing a sudden illness or rendering you unconscious? Do you have someone on your bank accounts with you who can pay your bills while you are incapacitated? If you are not able to tell the doctor who you want to make your healthcare decisions, and you do not have a healthcare power of attorney in place, then most likely, your parents or other family will have to apply for guardianship over you to make those healthcare and financial decisions. If you do not have someone on your bank accounts with you or who has financial power of attorney on your behalf, again, a guardianship may have to take place.
Guardianship proceedings are very expensive and require the use of an attorney. Guardianships require full supervision by the court, along with filing annual plans and annual accountings – there is a lot of work that goes into it which is why it is can be expensive. However, if you have the basic estate planning documents in place, chances are that your family will be able to avoid that court supervision.
Contact Attorney Laurie Ohall to assist with Estate Planning in Brandon, Florida and Tampa, Florida.
Special thanks to Browning, Meyer, and Ball for “Stages of Life” inspiration.