With high school graduation coming up, many parents will watch (live or virtually) their children walk across a stage and become adults (at least in the eyes of the law) and leave home to pursue their education and career goals.
Turning 18, graduating high school, and moving out is a huge accomplishment. Turning 18 and becoming an adult also comes with some serious responsibilities that most likely are not at the forefront of their (or your) mind right now. Once your children become legal adults, many areas that were once under your control are now solely their responsibility.
Here’s the big one: Before they turned 18, you had access to their financial accounts and had the power to make all of their healthcare decisions. After they turn 18, however, you no longer have the legal authority to access financial accounts or make healthcare decisions.
Before your kids head out into the world, you should discuss and have them sign the following estate planning documents, so if they become incapacitated, you can easily access their medical records and financial accounts without having to go to court. Signing these documents will ensure that if they ever do need your help and guidance, you’ll have the legal authority to easily provide it.
Health Care Proxy
A Health Care Proxy allows your child to name an agent (usually a parent), who has the power to make healthcare decisions for them if they become incapacitated and cannot make such 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.
While a Health Care Proxy would give you authority to view your child’s medical records and make treatment decisions, that authority only goes into effect if the child becomes incapacitated. This means that unless your child is incapacitated, you do not have the authority to view their medical records, which are considered 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—not even a parent—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. This can be critical if you ever need to make informed decisions about your child’s medical care.
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, 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 their financial and legal matters, such as paying bills, applying for Social Security benefits, and/or managing banking and other financial accounts.
GETTING IT DONE
If your child is getting ready to leave the nest to attend college or pursue some other life goal, have them first get these documents signed. It’s simple and quick and will give you and them the peace of mind you both deserve. To set up your child’s 18+ plan, contact us to schedule an appointment, so you can rest assured knowing your child has their own plan in place should anything ever happen.