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Once people hit midlife, they typically start focusing on estate-planning issues for themselves and, often, for their elderly parents. But there’s one group that 40- and 50-somethings usually neglect: Their own college-age kids.

How soon is too soon? That is a common question parents must ask and answer when rearing their children to adulthood. So, when should your children have their own estate plan?

MarketWatch recently addressed this issue in an article titled “Why your kids need their own estate plan.

Few 18-year-olds have their own investments, retirement and insurance, let alone the complication of spouse and children. For many, however, it is just a matter of time. Why, then, should an 18-year-old newly-minted adult need a plan for their estate?

Once this birthday milestone is crossed, these “children” turned “legal adults” have new legal rights and responsibilities. In fact, the basics of estate planning are as important for them as for their parents.

Consider a very common example of why young adults need a basic estate plan: healthcare. At age 17, if they have an accident, then you (their parents and legal guardians) can step in to make their medical decisions, pay their bills, and even demand grade cards from their school. At age 18, however, all of that changes.

Should your adult child be incapacitated in a serious accident, then you are no more than a perfect stranger when it comes to your “legal” ability to take care of them and their business. You have hit a legal wall of expensive red tape. Fortunately, this wall is avoidable by proper planning.

Bottom line: whether you are a newly-minted young adult, middle-aged, or elderly, proper estate planning is a matter of personal responsibility. Basic estate planning tools include a health care proxy and a financial durable power of attorney.

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