One of the first birthday presents I give to my kids as they turn eighteen, is a question.
I tell them, “Now that you are an adult, you have some amazing powers to control some of the uncontrollable things in your life.” Then I ask them, “Who do you want to look after you if you have a car accident and are so injured you cannot think for yourself anymore?”
As their mum, I have some rights to medical information in some circumstances as their “next of kin”, but for most decision-making, I would have to apply to the court for an order appointing me as my injured adult child’s guardian and administrator. Can you imagine how awful that would be, at a time when I’d be dealing with my son’s catastrophic injury?
My kids have always said that they would want me to look after things for them, so we have taken the step of making an enduring power of attorney where they have legally appointed me and other family members to look after them if ever a disastrous event happens.
They have also made wills, even though they have just turned eighteen and have pretty much nothing in the way of valuable assets. When they are eighteen, they often don’t. But with time, they start to accumulate bits and pieces, not least being insurance in superannuation, and that can be worth a great deal. After years of listening to me talking about the disastrously unfortunate consequences of intestacy, my kids know that an up-to-date will is important, and are motivated to have the proper paperwork in place.
The proper paperwork requires careful advice and thinking about an individual’s personal circumstances. Everyone is special and unique, and has their own special needs, and questions about some of the most serious aspects of life. That is why a kit-will is rarely adequate.
Our children are so precious – even when they are adults – and we all want our kids to outlive us.
But if disaster strikes, and our precious darlings are injured or, even worse, killed, it is so important that we can look after them the way they would want without having to ask a judge for permission to do that, and without having to explain every decision we make for our child to a public servant who might not agree with our decision.
One of the best gifts you can give your child for their eighteenth birthday, is the recognition that your child now has the solemn responsibility of making really important decisions for themselves, and making a will and power of attorney can be one of the most important decision a person can make.