Many Pennsylvania readers are aware of the recent death of Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of musicians Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown. The 22-year-old passed away after being found face down in a bathtub in her home, and living in a comatose condition for nearly six months. Because she did not have the proper estate planning documents in place at the time of her incapacitation, her family was thrown into a tumultuous struggle over which party was entitled to direct the course of her medical care.
Young people do not have the same estate planning needs as older adults. Often, there is very little in the way of assets that would be distributed in the event of death. However, incapacitation is a risk that everyone faces, regardless of their age. When a young adult becomes incapacitated due to a serious illness or injury, the course of their medical care can become a significant matter of contention among family members.
This is especially true in cases where a young adult’s parents are no longer together and do not enjoy a healthy relationship. When parents do not see eye-to-eye on medical treatments or interventions, a nasty legal battle can result. In the case of Bobbi Kristina Brown, her mother predeceased her and her maternal family was at odds with her father over how she should be cared for once she slipped into a coma.
These matters can be cleared up by drafting an advance health care directive package that clearly lists the person or persons entrusted with making medical decisions on behalf of a young person. In addition, individuals can outline which medical procedures they would want, and any that should be avoided. It is also possible to include a document that directs one’s body to be donated for the purpose of organ transplants or medical research. While no Pennsylvania family wants to think about the incapacitation of a young person, having these estate planning documents in place can make a world of difference if the need should arise.
Source: wealthmanagement.com, “What Estate Planning Lessons can I Learn from Whitney Houston’s Daughter?“, Aug. 12, 2015