Estate Planning + Your Adult Children

What would your life look like if you couldn't help your child or make decisions on their behalf when they really need you to?  Many parents are shocked to discover once their young person turns 18 they are legally no longer able to step in as a substitue decision maker if they became unwell or were in an accident, or act as the executor of their estate if they died.

Does Your Young Adult Need A Will

"A long time ago someone wisely told me I'd never stop being a mum, no matter how old my children were..."

With five kids spread across 15 years it does indeed feel like I’ll be in the mothering trenches I know the days are long the years are short but sometimes the days are very, very looong!

This week I’m seeing nods to Mother’s Day piling up in my inbox (and at the service station and the chemist and everywhere really) which reminds me the time is fast approaching to fortify myself for the early Sunday morning argument between my youngest three about who will carry the cardboard like toast slathered in butter and drenched in jam and who will bring me the tepid tea made before the water boiling process was complete.

And when I think of carboard toast and tepid tea I’m quickly reminded that my adult kids are impervious to Hallmark holidays and unlikely to mark the occasion in any way shape or form.  Which is ok.

Because I’ll never stop being their mum.

Even when they’ve grown and flown the nest.  Or not flown the nest in one case.  I will continue to lay awake at night thinking about where they are in the world.  Worrying they’re safe.  Hoping they’re happy.  Over analysing if I did enough or too much or all the wrong things in bringing them to adulthood. Assuming when they need my help I'll be ready, willing and able to give it.

Because it’s true, you never stop being a mum.

However, the law doesn’t see it the same way.

Once your child is considered an adult you are not legally able to make decisions that would help them – even if you’re their mum (Or their dad.  But we’re going with a theme here so bear with me fellas).

Most parents assume if their young person needs them to make decisions on their behalf then they’ll be able to.

If their young person is in an emergency and needs representation or needs them to access personal information, they’ll be able to help.

If their young person is in an accident and requires surgery or other medical intervention, they’ll be able to make the decision for them.

If they die, they’ll be the person automatically tasked with managing their estate and will be a beneficiary of any assets they own.


The reality is the legal rights and obligations of parenthood immediately cease upon your child’s 18th Birthday.

Even if your young adult doesn’t seem to have really made their way out of childhood.  Even if they still live at home, and you wash their dirty socks and undies, or they don’t know one end of a wooden spoon from the other.

In the eyes of the law, they are an adult, and you cannot make decisions for them unless they have authorised you to do so.

If they don’t have a will, haven’t nominated you as their power of attorney or have you listed as a substitute decision-maker in an Advance Care Directive, decisions will be made on their behalf by a court.

Not you.

Even if you're their mum.

Nobody ever wants to think about their young person getting sick, having an accident or dying.  It’s the most horrific thing in the world to consider.  But the reality is thousands of families have their lives irrevocably altered by any one of those situations every day of the year.

What would life look like for you if you weren’t able to help your child when they need you most?

A few simple documents signed by your young person might be the very best Mother’s Day gift you could ever receive.

Aside from a bunch of flowers made from patty pans and pipe cleaners or cold toast and lukewarm tea.


When people do their Estate Planning with me I always include legal paperwork for their young adults because nobody wants to have to fight for the right to look after their child when they most need to be looked after.  We create an Advance Care Directive and nominate their parent|s as substitute decision-makers, and draw up a basic will to determine executors and beneficiaries, even if they have very few assets.

Good estate planning isn't about protecting money or stuff, it's about ensuring the least collateral damage to families in times of grief and upheaval.

If you don't want a court (or live-in girlfriend/boyfriend of 3 years) making decisions on behalf of your young person, let's chat about what you and your fledgling adult want life to look like if the worst were to happen.


Brave is kind.


The good looking young lad in the photo up top is my son.  I consider him the poster child for young people making a will.

He's in his early 20's, risky, reckless and always up for a good time.  He drives a fast car, rides a motorbike and probably does a whole bunch of stuff I really don't want to know about.

He has a girlfriend who's lived with him (us) for 3 years, which means if he's injured or dies she will be legally considered his defacto partner, which in the hiracy of decision making places him above me, his mum.

If he were to die without a will she would inherit a large portion, if not all of his (albeit limited) assets and expected to make decisions I don't know any young person is equiped to make.

An Advance Care Directive allows him to nominate who he wants to make decisions on his behalf if he became ill or injured.  And a basic will enables him to nominate a executor of his estate and distribute is assets as he wishes.

This doesn't necessarily mean nominating a parent.  Many young people are estranged from their families and don't want particular family members making decisions on their behalf.  When working through the hirachy of decision making, courts will appoint a family member (whether you liked them or not) over a friend or other trusted person.

Both these documents allow young people to nominte the person / people they WANT to make decisions for them when they can't.

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