As teenagers and young adults grow and mature, it is important to have a basic understanding of the law, both for their own protection and in order to be a reasonably informed adult. Life can be unpredictable and legal problems can present themselves at any time; by having a grasp of their legal rights and having a basic understanding of how our legal system works, young people put themselves in a position to protect those rights and will know how to deal with problems that present themselves.
In order to gain this power, we suggest people of all ages familiarize themselves with the legal tools at their disposal.
First, young people should be encouraged to seek legal advice as a resource when questions about the law, in general, or the way it affects them particularly arise. As young adults become responsible for themselves and their new families, larger assets begin to accumulate, from cars, to homes, to life insurance, and multiple bank accounts. Lawyers can serve as a resource to work through the challenges that these new developments in life present, and can help organize matters so that young people are not inundated with legal issues beyond their understanding. The goal should be for young adults to have an understanding of their rights, and an understanding of where they can go to get answers.
Second, taxes are an inevitable part of everyone’s life. Lawyers can give tax advice to young people who have questions about doing their own taxes, trying to set up a business or, in the worst case scenario, are audited by the IRS. Taxes can sneak up on people, particularly those who have not become accustomed to paying them themselves. If tax problems arise, it is important to quickly seek advice on how to deal with them. Frequently, when people receive notice from the IRS, their first reaction is to push it away and hope it will go away; but, it won’t go away, and the sooner it is addressed, the better positon that puts someone.
Third, as young people become more mature and start to settle down, family issues can start to become important. Perhaps a marriage is in the future, perhaps a loved one has died, or perhaps a guardianship is needed to take care of a relative; each of these situations can be improved by preparing ahead of time by knowing what to do. If a marriage is in the future, considering how that changes the legal relationship between two people is important. If a loved one has died, it’s important to know the basics of probate court. These are common situations that can come up, and knowing that they are there can prepare young people for the future.
Lastly, there are documents that every person should have and that young people should be aware of. Everyone should have a will – just in case. Everyone, if they are getting married, should have a prenuptial agreement – just in case. So much of knowing your rights and about the law comes down to preparing for the worst, hoping for the best, and making sure you have a contingency if anything goes wrong.