As parents, we know that even when your children turn 18, they still need our guidance as they continue to learn and grow in the new chapter of their lives. As such, having access to certain information is critical. Whether your adult child plans to continue their education away at college, pursue technical school, or join the armed forces, the fact remains that your child is now an adult in the eyes of the law. The medical and financial decisions you’ve been helping make for the past 18 years now are legally made by your child.
What Legal Documents Do I Need for My Child?
One of the most important, and often overlooked things that you will need for your child who is now a young adult is a Power of Attorney. You want this Power of Attorney prepared by an experienced estate planning attorney. In fact, there are three Power of Attorney forms that you should put in place:
- Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Affairs;
- HIPAA Authorization and Waiver; and
- Advance Health Care Directive
Don’t worry. Creating the above-listed documents for a young adult is not a sign of being overbearing. It is also not a sign of not being able to “let go.” These documents are about empowering your child to be proactive and responsible in the future when it comes to preparing for any crisis before it occurs. And, at the same time, these documents enable you to handle your child’s medical care and financial affairs in the event your child becomes incapacitated.
If your adult child does become incapacitated (such as a coma, unconscious, unable to speak, etc.), without these documents in place, you would most likely need to petition the Court to obtain guardianship to enable you to make medical decisions on your child’s behalf. This process can be long, costly, and stressful.
Below, we explain the purpose of each of the above-listed forms, and why you need them.
Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Affairs
The Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Affairs allows a parent or other authorized agent to have access to be able to handle an adult child’s financial and business affairs in the event the adult child becomes incapacitated.
By the time your child becomes a young adult, banks, creditors, and insurance companies will no longer communicate with you regarding their accounts or financial matters. If there comes a time when your child lacks capacity, you would not be able to talk to banks and creditors without your child’s explicit permission. This could be detrimental to your child’s financial future. With the Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Affairs, if your child lacked capacity, you as their parent could assist in managing their financial and business affairs to ensure proper and timely handling during that period.
HIPAA Authorization Form
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) requires health care providers and insurance companies to protect the privacy of a patient’s health care information.
You may be saying to yourself, “We’ve filled out many of these at the doctor’s office, why would we need this?” However, the forms filled out at your doctor’s office normally only provide release of health information that is strictly for that office or medical group. They provide no rights to parents about their adult child’s health information in any other capacity. Even if your child is still covered under your medical insurance, you have no legal right to their medical records or other health care related information.
The HIPAA Authorization Form allows your child’s health information to be disclosed to parents or other named agents. This is especially helpful when your child is away pursuing their future career hundreds, or even thousands of miles away.
However, this document does not provide parents with the authority to make informed medical decisions. That power comes from having an Advance Health Care Directive in place.
Advance Health Care Directive
An Advance Health Care Directive (“AHCD”) provides a medical power of attorney by naming an “agent” to make medical decisions on behalf of your adult child in case they lack capacity and cannot make medical decisions for themselves. With an AHCD in place, health care providers can legally consult parents about their adult child’s medical treatments. And, parents may make informed medical decisions on their adult child’s behalf.
How to Get These Essential Documents
To ensure your child has these documents, the process is simple:
- Your child will need to call our office or contact us online to schedule a phone call or Zoom meeting to discuss the process.
- After the call or Zoom meeting, we will give your child a fillable PDF form to fill out. This form enables them to list who they want to name as agents in the essential documents. It also allows them to specify their wishes when it comes to their medical and financial affairs.
- Once your child completes the form, they will return it to our office. Then, the attorney will prepare the documents according to your child’s specifications.
- We will book an appointment wherein the attorney will meet with your adult child and review the final documents with them. We will answer any of your adult child’s questions and ensure that the documents are prepared to the adult child’s preferences and desires. Then, we will ensure that the documents are signed in the presence of a Notary Public.
- After the documents have been signed, the attorney will scan them and keep an electronic copy on file. Your adult child will take the originals home with them to keep in a secure location. You should send copies of the documents to your adult child’s educational institution and health care providers. You should also give copies to any person your adult child has named as an agent.