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5 Documents Every Real Adult Needs to Consider & 2 Bonus Items

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

I will admit I did not have all of these locked down. What changed? Our daughter turned 18. Yep - that will create some focus. And if we were not fully aware of what that meant, her doctor, her bank and Amazon promptly reminded us that adulthood is a real thing with actual impact on basic life functions.

The list of things we needed to have in place for our young adult is the same list all adults need to consider and most of which we have not. People think they can wait until they are older - a magical age that is always at least 20 years out. The truth is (1) things happen before that time that can make you wish you did more earlier and (2) maybe it is easier to discuss hypothetical tragedies when they feel further in the distance. So here is the basic adulting legal document checklist:


Durable Financial Power of Attorney


This document gives another trusted adult the ability to transact business on your behalf. It can be used when the primary person is not able to transact business on their own temporarily (I am out of town on a trip) or permanently (I no longer have the ability to knowingly make legal or financial decisions). While free forms can be found online, I recommend that an actual attorney in the state of your residence prepare this document to meet state requirements. Your state may have also enacted a statutory form, as Georgia has, so that there is a standard form generally accepted where you live. Even then, it needs to be reviewed based upon the intended purpose. The Georgia Statutory POA works for most things but does not usually meet with the title standards for real estate transactions unless other steps are also taken.


Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare (Advanced Directives)


The Advanced Directive documents state what life saving measures you want taken and designate who can make decisions for you if you are unable. I helped my daughter with this one because she asked me to, but also made it clear to her that she can change her answers at any point without discussing it with me. The Living Will means your family does not have to make hard decisions on your behalf without knowing your wishes. Those are the types of decisions that can fracture families. The Georgia Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare also includes the ability to request medical records that meets the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) requirements.

I did mine in my early 20's after losing a good friend unexpectedly and realizing that I was in Atlanta without anyone in the same time zone who could make medical decisions for me. My husband was then my boyfriend which made him a legal stranger to me in the eyes of the law and medicine. I did not look at it again until my own daughter became an adult. The people I designated where given copies in sealed envelopes in 1998 and told they never had to read it until it was time to use it.


A Will and / or a Trust


The best plan for any family very much depends upon the circumstances for that family. This is particularly true for blended families where the lines of inheritance are not as simple. The short explanation is that anything that passes through a will requires a probate of the estate. Probate is also required if there is no will or trust in place and decisions are made based upon the laws of inheritance and not the wishes of the decedent. The probate process has a time and a cost which will differ by state and even by county. There are estate taxes which change every year and differ by state. Georgia has no state inheritance tax and the federal estate tax exemption is $12.06 million in 2022. Trusts are legal instruments that operate in life and after death. It holds title to assets and the Trustees change over time as people pass away or become unable to serve. The assets in the trust do not require probate.

The most important point for anyone with any assets is to have one or both of these documents in place. If you have minor children, you can address their physical and financial needs. Once they are adults, you may wish to have an older adult making financial decisions for them until they gain a little more maturity and wisdom or at least leave their teens.

Many spouses and partners hold title as Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship (exact naming will differ by state) so that title passes automatically to the survivor upon the death of the first person. Remember that the death of all owners will require a probate unless the property is placed into a trust.


Consider Your Account Access for Security and for Conducting Adult Business


If you are storing your passwords on post-it notes stuck to your computer or in your beautiful Lilly Pulitzer annual planner that you carry everywhere, please stop - you are killing me. Really, I am slowing dying from the pain of seeing this. Stop. Now. You have to.

Read my lips - password manager. I don't care which one. Pick from the list of PC Mags Top Picks for 2022. You do not have to be a member of the AARP to be a possible target for fraud as their podcast, The Perfect Scam, has demonstrated on many occasions.

In addition to being a basic adult safety precaution, it also gives you the ability to give other trusted family members access. My mother-in-law, who could never have been described as tech-savvy, passed away unexpectedly in 2019. My husband was able to shut down credit cards and confirm bank accounts were secure immediately because we shared a family vault in our Password Manager. It took weeks for the probate court to give him legal authority to administer her estate. With access, he knew that everything was safe in the meantime and that all bills that should be paid were paid.


Document Storage and Dissemination


Completing these documents is not the last step. They have to be findable when needed by the appropriate people. In 1998, that meant putting them in an obvious and well-labeled envelope, delivering them to my loved ones, and hoping for the best. We have more options now. Most companies and hospitals will accept a digital copy of the document. Storage in a secure digital location accessible to the appropriate people is the goal. Guess what? A number of the Password Managers can store documents so these forms can go in there as well. If you need them, they are accessible on your phone and can be emailed or texted. The originals should also be kept in case of need in a place designated for all important legal documents - consider a fireproof container.


Need more information and help getting started??


We are currently organizing a symposium for our real estate partners. We will provide more information from trusted professionals on the above topics, including a tax professional. We will also provide the statutory forms applicable to Georgia at this in-person event so that you have the ability to walk out with 2/3 of the adulting work completed. Interested in attending? Let us know at Connect@proclosers.com and we will add you to the list for updates as details are confirmed. Space will be limited so secure your spot today.


Cheryl Conner King

Closing Attorney | Partner, Thomas & Brown | Podcaster | REALTOR®


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