Estate Planning for Young Adults

Posted On November 24, 2023

When it comes to estate planning, most people think it is about what happens to our stuff when we get older. Few people understand that it is also about what happens to ourselves while we are still young. 

As soon as we turn 18 we are considered legally responsible for our own decisions in terms of finances and health. This means that parents of young adults lose their legal authority over their child and are no longer able to access their health or education records or assist in managing their affairs.  For this reason, it is critical to hire an estate planning attorney. They can help you navigate the complex legal issues involved in estate planning and ensure that you have all the necessary documents in place, including advanced directives.

Having a plan in place with the help of a skilled New York estate planning lawyer can alleviate stress and confusion for both the young adult and their loved ones.

Having these directives in place allows them to: 

  1. Designate a person of their choice (usually a parent or close relative) to be legally allowed to access medical and education records, and assist with health and financial decisions in case of unexpected events or incapacity. 
  2. Provide guidance to healthcare providers and family members about the young adult’s treatment preferences and who they would like to make decisions on their behalf. This ensures that their wishes and preferences regarding financial, medical care, and end-of-life decisions are respected.


There are four documents we include in our Advanced directives packets:

  • Power of Attorney: for financial and legal decisions 
  • Health Care Directives: for health care decisions
  • FERPA authorization: which allows access to education records
  • HIPPA release form: which allows access to medical records

Let’s take a deeper dive into each one


Young adults may need powers of attorney to authorize someone they trust to make important financial or legal decisions on their behalf. Parents may encounter situations where their young adult children are unable to manage their affairs due to unexpected events, such as an accident or illness, or when they are traveling or away from home and need someone to act on their behalf. 

Powers of attorney can be durable or non-durable and can cover a range of decision-making authority, such as managing bank accounts, paying bills, signing contracts, and making medical decisions.

A power of attorney can help ensure that their financial and legal matters are taken care of according to their wishes, without the need for a court-appointed conservatorship or guardianship. Having a power of attorney in place can also prevent potential disputes among family members or other loved ones and provide peace of mind to both the young adult and their family.


In New York, a mental health power of attorney is a legal document that allows an individual (referred to as the “principal”) to appoint a trusted agent to make mental health treatment decisions on their behalf in the event that they become unable to make decisions for themselves. This type of power of attorney is authorized by the Mental Hygiene Law in New York State.

A mental health power of attorney can be particularly important for individuals who have a history of mental health issues and want to ensure that their wishes regarding their mental health treatment are followed. The agent appointed in the power of attorney document can make decisions about the principal’s mental health treatment, including consent to or refusal of treatment, and decisions about hospitalization, medication, and therapy.

It’s important to note that a mental health power of attorney only applies to mental health, for general Medical Care you need the document up next.

Type of Power of Attorney Description
General Power of Attorney Authorizes someone (agent) to make financial and legal decisions on behalf of the individual (principal). Can cover managing bank accounts, paying bills, signing contracts, and making medical decisions. Can be durable (remains valid even if the principal becomes incapacitated) or non-durable.
Mental Health Power of Attorney Specific to mental health treatment decisions. Allows the appointment of an agent to make mental health treatment decisions on behalf of the principal if they become unable to decide for themselves. Covers consent or refusal of treatment, hospitalization, medication, and therapy. Authorized by Mental Hygiene Law in New York State.

Health Care Proxy for College Students

Health care proxy for college students is an essential legal tool that allows a designated individual to make medical decisions for the student in case they’re unable to do so due to severe injuries or mental health issues. Upon turning 18, students legally become adults and parents lose the legal right to make healthcare decisions for them. This is where a health care proxy comes into play.

A health care proxy grants parents the right to access their child’s medical records and make informed decisions about their treatment, based on the child’s wishes and available medical facts. This ensures that parents can still look out for their child’s health when they’re away at college.

The risk of accidents or sudden illness that could incapacitate the student and leave them unable to make health care decisions is always present. A health care proxy is a proactive measure to prevent such situations from leading to confusion or legal hurdles.

The benefits of having a health care proxy for college students are numerous. The person chosen by the student gets to decide on treatments, ensuring that their wishes are carried out accurately. It also helps prevent unnecessary treatments that may not align with the student’s best interests. Most importantly, it helps avoid confusion and legal complications in critical situations. A health care proxy is a wise investment in a student’s health and well-being while away at college.


Health Care Directives (also known as a durable power of attorney for health care) provide a set of instructions for family and medical professionals to follow in the event of a medical emergency. A healthcare proxy should be familiar with their values and wishes, and will help plan for situations that cannot be foreseen, such as a serious car accident or stroke.


As a general rule, it is a good idea for college students to sign a FERPA release, as it allows their parents or legal guardians to access their academic records and other educational information. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student educational records, but it also allows for the release of those records to parents or legal guardians of dependent students under certain circumstances.

New York estate planning attorney

By signing a FERPA release, a college student can authorize their parents or legal guardians to access their academic records, including grades, transcripts, and financial aid information. This can be helpful for parents who want to stay informed about their child’s academic progress and provide support when necessary. 

Now that we have talked about what these documents do and why they are important, let’s discuss how to set them up! 

Because all 18-year-olds are considered legal adults, the decision to sign these Advance Directives should be made in collaboration with their parents or legal guardians and an estate planning attorney.  While some documents you may obtain on your own such as the HIPPA release, the Financial Power of Attorney in particular is a powerful document that should be properly prepared by an attorney. This ensures that the documents will work as intended and your attorney can also provide counsel on how to use them correctly. Creating advance directives is an important part of planning for the future, if you are ready to get started make sure you contact us today.


Many young professionals neglect estate planning, since they have few assets, are single, and in good health. However, estate planning is just as necessary for a young professional as it is for older, rich, and married individuals. 

One of the critical aspects of estate planning is creating a power of attorney. This document authorizes someone to act on your behalf in financial and medical situations if you become incapacitated.  With the power of attorney, should the unexpected happen, you can avoid guardianship, which can be expensive and time-consuming. 

Another important estate planning tool is an advanced directive for healthcare.  If you have set up an advanced directive, you will appoint a healthcare proxy to make medical decisions for you should you be unable to make them yourself. This document also enables you to specify your preferences for end-of-life care and organ donation, which can alleviate the burden on your family. 

Creating a will or trust is also essential in estate planning. Without a plan, the law determines the distribution of your assets. Having a will allows you to decide on the allocation of your assets, which also involves designating a legal guardian for your underage children. In addition, a trust can help you avoid the probate procedure and make certain that your assets are distributed according to your preferences. 

If you’re a young professional looking to secure your future and protect your assets, consider working with a skilled New York estate planning lawyer. At New York Legacy Lawyers, our team of experienced estate planning attorneys may be able to help you create a comprehensive plan that addresses your unique needs and goals. Contact us at (718) 713-8080 to learn more about how we can help.