Parents: Is your “baby” an adult now? As high school graduation approaches, you and your child may be planning for college as their next phase of life; meeting next year’s roommate, selecting the fall semester’s classes, and our daughter Hannah’s favorite errand- buying extra-long twin sheets and shower flip flops for the college dorm.
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.
At The Parents Estate Planning Law Firm, PC, we want to remind you that once your child turns 18, you lose the legal ability to make decisions for your child or even to find out basic legal, financial or health care information.
Like most parents, 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 would 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 a young adult 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 final summer before college passes by in the blink of an eye, but there is still time to check these most important tasks of 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 Act protects 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 on these documents, please call me at 978-263-6900 to set up a time to have your child sign them.
We’re holding appointment times aside during the summer specifically so that families can take care of this critical task, but if your young adult is unable to meet before he or she heads off to school, you may still call today to reserve an appointment during Thanksgiving or Winter breaks.
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. If you would like to receive attorney David Feakes’s exclusive, free report, “Six Major Mistakes To Avoid When Choosing An Estate Planning Attorney,” you can get it right here.