Here in Arizona, as kids turn 18, they are considered adults and parents don’t have the same legal authority to make choices for them any longer. If your 18 year old is temporarily or permanently unable to make choices (due to an illness or injury), no one would be able to intervene in medical or financial affairs without jumping through difficult, stressful and time-consuming hoops. Bottom line: Even though you are Mom or Dad, your child is considered a legal adult and you will no longer have the same rights to access to his or her medical and financial records.
For many parents, this may be a worrisome reality, especially if they are traveling for Spring Break, going out of state for school or on a graduation trip abroad this Summer. Many teens are immature or uniformed when it comes to making major medical and financial decisions. They may also lack the discipline necessary for credit cards and responsible spending.
So, what is a parent to do? The good news is that at 18, they probably don’t have much of an estate yet, so their estate plan would probably include a financial power of attorney, a health care power of attorney, and living will. And the great news is, these documents don’t require much “planning” and therefore are relatively inexpensive. Here is more information on each type of document:
Financial Power of Attorney
If your 18 year old is ill or injured, someone else must step in to help. With a financial power of attorney, he/she names Mom and/or Dad as their agent to pay bills, make deposits, watch investments and handle any money matters. This can also come in handy if you plan to play an active roll in helping start or monitor your child’s financial planning or affairs as well. Another option is a Durable Power of Attorney, which allows your son or daughter to choose you to act in their place should they become mentally or physically incapacitated. The difference between this document and other powers of attorney is its broader scope and the fact that it is in place until the signer’s death (or it is rescinded).
Health Care Power of Attorney & A Living Will
A Health Care Power of Attorney means that your son or daughter can designate you as his or her healthcare representative should they become severely ill or incapacitated. Be sure that if he or she is attending collage out of state that the documents are drawn up by a professional in that state. The Health Care Power of Attorney should also be partnered with a Living Will, which applies if he or she becomes terminally ill or permanently unconscious or another similar condition as defined by that state’s law. This gives parents peace of mind during a difficult or extremely stressful time.
BONUS: HIPAA Release
Another document, which is usually supplied by your doctor’s office, is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Release. This maintains your son or daughter’s medical privacy and unless you are designated on this form, you may not be entitled to information about your child’s medical diagnosis or prognosis. Therefore, you’ll want to discuss adding your name to this form as well at each of your child’s physicians’ offices.
With these documents in place, you can send your child off to college, a new job or even to travel the world knowing you have indeed done all you can to protect and to prepare them for the challenges and rewards ahead. For some parents, this worrisome reality is eased by knowing they have put in place some safeguards. Contact us to get a College Readiness Plan ready for your child — just as important as extra-long twin sheets!
PHOTO: ADI GOLDSTEIN UNSPLASH