You probably have a lot on your mind as your high school senior prepares to graduate. College applications, campus visits, and trips to a Target for dorm room decor can all be bittersweet for both you and your child. One thing that often gets overlooked in the flurry of these activities is that your son or daughter will soon come to the age of majority. As a parent, you have spent the majority of your child’s life making medical, legal, and financial decisions on their behalf. This is where many parents run into trouble because they assume that they are still in charge…even after their child turns 18. Without legal documentation, such as an advance directive, parents may be unable to tend to any medical, legal, or financial matters on behalf of their child once they become a legal adult.
Estate planning is generally uncomplicated for someone who is 18 years old, but it is important nonetheless. Accidents can happen, which is not something you want to think about, but it is something you should prepare for. If your child is no longer able to care for themselves or make important decisions, having an estate plan will provide for these situations. The exercise of estate planning also offers the opportunity to introduce your child to the importance of tackling major decisions before urgent circumstances arise.
Health Care Proxy
If your son or daughter becomes injured or seriously ill and is unable to make their own medical decisions, you as a parent will not automatically be allowed to make those decisions for them. By creating a health care proxy (also referred to as a medical power of attorney or advance directive) your child can grant you access to medical records and/or allow you to make medical decisions should they become incapacitated. Without this document, you may need to access the courts to obtain medical information about your son or daughter, or to make health care decisions on their behalf.
HIPAA regulations prohibit the disclosure of medical records, and, as a result, deny parents’ access to such information for their adult child. Due to this, parents should obtain a blanket HIPAA authorization from their child if they want the option of being apprised of their adult child’s health records. The HIPAA release is an important part of the estate planning process and may be incorporated into the health care proxy.
Durable Power of Attorney
The durable power of attorney functions very similarly to the health care proxy. Your child should consider executing one in favor of a trusted family member, such as yourself. The durable power of attorney allows the appointed individual the ability to act on your child’s behalf in both legal and financial matters, should they become unable to do so. This part of estate planning is sometimes overlooked, as parents believe their young adult children lack the financial resources to warrant this type of planning. Having this paperwork, however, makes it easier to manage the unexpected when dealing with banks, universities, and other related institutions.
These documents are generally quick and painless to create, and only rely on your adult child to make a few decisions regarding who they want to appoint as their agent. Hopefully none of these documents will be necessary, but if the unexpected happens, it will be of great relief to have them on hand.
To get started on or update your estate plan, contact our legal office today.