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  • Sheelagh Gray

Does your child at Uni or on a Gap Year need a Will and EPOA?

By Sheelagh Gray, Clifford Gouldson Lawyers

Young woman with arms in air wearing hat and back pack watching sunrise on beach

 As our children near the end of the schooling years, we are often focused on discussions associated with their ATAR scores, where they plan to go to university, or whether they will choose to have a gap year and head overseas on an epic adventure.


At the same time, we are also preparing ourselves for being separated from our young adults for extended periods and leaving them to make their own decisions without our support. However, there’s one crucial step in this preparation you shouldn’t overlook: requesting that your young adult sign a Will and EPOA (Enduring Power of Attorney).


Why Estate Planning Matters for Young People

While estate planning documents are commonly associated with older individuals, they are equally important for young adults. A will or enduring power of attorney (EPOA) give parents, or another chosen party, the authority to manage their child’s affairs and make financial decisions if their child were to lose capacity.

Without these legal instruments in place, parents may face challenges in decision-making during critical moments after an accident, or if their child becomes temporarily or permanently disabled.


The Risks Young Adults Face

Accidents pose a significant risk to young adults, and the statistics are sobering. In Australia alone, there are nearly 740,000 preventable hospitalizations each year. Tragically, accidents are a leading cause of death among this age group.


A Hypothetical Scenario

Consider this hypothetical scenario: Your child heads overseas to work for their gap year. They are excited to explore their new environment but contract a severe viral infection, which needs urgent medical attention. You are able to make contact with the hospital and the clinician. However, the medical team are bound by privacy legislation which prevents them from discussing your child’s medical condition with you.


While you have prepared your child to be independent, you may still be their backup when they find themselves in an emergency. In this situation you would find yourself unable to obtain critical information to act on their behalf without an EPOA in place.


How do you avoid these distressing situations?

To avoid these distressing situations, encourage your child to prepare an Enduring Power of Attorney and Will before they start this new phase in their life. By doing so, you ensure their well-being and provide peace of mind for both you and your young adult.


The Enduring Power of Attorney will nominate and authorise a person (called an Attorney) to make decisions for your child, should your child be in the situation where they are so ill that they cannot make their own health care decisions. This will also allow your child’s attorney to assist with finances or other legal documents if required.


Your child has choices

Your child has choices about when the Enduring Power of Attorney becomes effective. They can choose for the EPOA to become effective from the moment it is signed. Or your child can choose for the Attorney’s powers to only come into effect when they are incapacitated. Where overseas travel is involved, an immediate start to the EPOA is recommended.


What if my relationship with my child is strained?

If your relationship with your child is strained, or your circumstances mean that you may not easily be available to take over matters for your child, another person may be authorized as an Attorney. Your child could choose to appoint another adult, such as an aunt, uncle or older sibling, whom they trust to act in their best interests. In addition, it’s also important to name an alternate Attorney in case your child’s first choice is unable to be contacted or unwilling to act when the time comes.


How do I convince my young adult to sign these documents?

Your young adult may feel that you worry too much as a parent. However, gently explaining the positive outcomes that will result by having an Enduring Power of attorney in place if something goes wrong is key. Scenarios like in the case of an emergency, having an Enduring Power of Attorney will make it easier to contact the local embassy to make arrangements to support them.


If gentle persuasion doesn’t work, then a financial or other incentive (if this is an option) may be the way to tip the scales in your favour to put these important documents in place.


Worst-case scenario

In the worst-case scenario, if the unthinkable does happen, a Will is another document that your young adult will benefit from. A Will appoints the executors who are the persons that are authorised to make decisions about funeral arrangements, including returning a body to Australia if that is required. 


Estate planning may sound like something that’s only for the elderly. This is not the case. It’s an important step for everyone to ensure their final wishes are carried out as they intended.


How can I organise a Will and EPOA?

The team at Clifford Gouldson Lawyers are experts in succession and estate planning, including wills, EPOA and advanced health directives. We can advise you on the appropriate structure to protect your and your children’s assets and reduce future legal complications. Our website contains more information about our Wills, Estates, Planning and Structuring services.


Important note

ABA are not lawyers and cannot provide legal advice in relation to your business or personal matters. We recommend you seek legal advice and would be happy to recommend a lawyer if you do not have one. ABA can advise and assist you with your tax strategy and accounting needs in relation to Family and Business Trusts.


Clifford Gouldson are lawyers and can provide you with specific, tailored and detailed advice in relation to individual and business legal matters. While informative, this article is not legal advice, always seek legal advice in relation to your specific personal circumstances.

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