Before Your Kids Leave for College:
Make Sure They Sign These Documents
You may not yet know when your children will head back to college, but if your children are over 18 years old, it is imperative that they sign these documents!
Many of us have watched as our children grow into adults (at least in the eyes of the law). Turning 18, graduating high school, and moving out are huge accomplishments. With big accomplishments come serious responsibilities. These new responsibilities probably aren’t at the forefront of their (or your) minds. Once your children become legal adults, many areas that were once under your control are now solely up to them.
Here’s the big one: Before they turned 18, you had access to their financial accounts and had the power to make all their healthcare decisions. After they turn 18, you are no longer able to do either.
Your kids still need you when they turn 18. Therefore, you should discuss with them the following estate planning documents. With these documents, if your kids become incapacitated, you can easily access their medical records and financial accounts without having to go to court. Signing these documents will ensure that when your kids need your help, you’ll have the legal authority to provide it.
Medical Power of Attorney
A medical Power of Attorney allows your children to name you as their agent. It gives you the power to make healthcare decisions for them if they’re incapacitated and cannot make decisions for themselves. For example, this authority allows you to make medical decisions if your child is knocked unconscious in a car accident or falls into a coma due to an illness.
A medical Power of Attorney gives you the authority to view your child’s medical records and make treatment decisions. But that authority only goes into effect if your child becomes incapacitated. Therefore, unless your child is incapacitated, you do not have the authority to view his or her medical records, because they are private under HIPAA.
Passed in 1996, the “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act,” or HIPAA, requires health care providers and insurance companies to protect the privacy of a patient’s health records. Once your child becomes 18, no one — even parents — is legally authorized to access his or her medical records without prior written permission.
But this is easily remedied by having your child sign a HIPAA authorization that grants you the authority to access his or her medical records. A HIPAA authorization can be critical if you ever need to make informed decisions about your child’s medical care.
A Living Will provides specific guidelines for how to handle your child’s medical care at the end of life.
A Living Will details how they want medical decisions made for them, not just who makes them. But such power only goes into effect if the child is terminally ill, which typically means they have less than six months to live.
Your children may have specific wishes for their end-of-life care. It is essential to discuss these decisions with them and have those provisions documented in a Living Will. For example, a Living Will allows your children to decide when and whether they would want life support removed if they required it. Because these are life-or-death decisions, you should document them in a Living Will to ensure they’re properly carried out.
Durable Power of Attorney
In the event your child becomes incapacitated, you’ll also need a Durable Power of Attorney to access his or her financial accounts. If you do not have a signed, Financial Durable Power of Attorney, you’ll have to go to court to get access.
A Durable Power of Attorney will give you the authority to manage your child’s financial and legal matters, such as paying bills, applying for Social Security benefits, and managing banking and other financial accounts.
When your child is over 18 but is not yet married with his or her own family, you can trust us as your Personal Family Lawyer® to help your child articulate and legally protect his or her healthcare and end-of-life wishes. With us in your corner, you’ll have peace of mind that your child will be well taken care of in the event of an unforeseen accident or illness.
This article is a service of Ruberg Law PLLC. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed, empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Planning Session during which you will get financially organized and decide what YOU want for YOUR family. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule your Planning Session at no charge.