Parents: Is your “baby” an adult now? As high school graduation approaches, you and your child may be planning for college, meeting next year’s roommate, selecting the fall semester’s classes, and our daughter Sadie’s favorite: shopping!
Graduation is a moment to celebrate your child’s achievement (and your own)! It can be a fun and exciting time. It is also the time for you to face the cold, hard fact: Your “baby” is all grown up and transitioning into the real world.
The team at The Parents Estate Planning Law Firm wants to remind you that once your child turns 18 and becomes a young adult, legal planning is essential. Without proper planning, you will lose the ability to make legal decisions for your child or even to find out basic legal, financial or health care information.
Like most parents of young adults, you may be surprised to learn that if your 18-year-old “child” has a medical emergency while away at school, without the proper legal documents in place, you would not likely be able to speak to the doctors. Instead, you may have to go to court and ask a Judge’s permission to obtain information about your child’s medical condition or to be able to make decisions about their treatment.
Below is a list of legal documents that allow anyone, including a young adult, to name another person to make medical and financial decisions for them, if they are unable to make them for themselves. These documents are not costly to prepare, and everyone over the age of 18 should have them.
As parents of two young adults ourselves, David and I urge all parents to set an appointment with their estate planning attorney soon after their child’s 18th birthday and encourage other parents to do the same for their young adults. This summer before they head off on their own, there is still time to check this most important task off your “to-do” list:
- A Health Care Proxy (for health care matters) gives another person legal authority to make health care decisions (including life and death decisions) for your child, if necessary.
- HIPAA Authorizations give your child’s doctors permission to discuss their medical situation with trusted family members who have been specifically authorized. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Actprotects your child’s privacy by limiting who can look at their medical records. This form, authorizing others to review your child’s medical information, easily skirts that issue.
- Durable Power of Attorney (for legal and financial matters) gives another person legal authority to manage your child’s finances without court interference, if necessary. That could even include semesters your child spends studying abroad. It also gives the named agent the ability to speak with an employer or social security, or even pursue a lawsuit on your child’s behalf.
As a Personal Family Lawyer®, David can advise you and your young adult on all your options and make things as easy as possible. If you’re not already working with an estate planning attorney who can prepare these documents for you, please call us at 978-263-6900 to set up a time to have your child sign them.
Congratulations, parents! You made it!
P.S. Want to get started on the most important planning you’ll ever do for your family? Give our office a call at (978) 263-6900 to get started. You’ll be so glad you did.
Paula Feakes is the Client Service Director of The Parents Estate Planning Law Firm, PC – a law firm for families in the Acton, Massachusetts area. She and her husband, David, help parents protect the people they love the most.