While estate planning is probably one of the last things your teenage kids are thinking about, when they turn 18, it should be their (and your) number-one priority. At 18, they become legal adults in the eyes of the law and parents no longer have the authority to make decisions regarding their healthcare. Further, parents will not have access to their financial accounts, even in the event of an emergency or death.
If you're no longer in charge, your adult child would be extremely vulnerable in the event of illness or incapacitation. This is an especially important consideration in light of a global pandemic. Putting a plan in place could literally save their lives. If your kids are already 18 or are about to hit that milestone, it's crucial that you discuss and have them sign the following documents.
Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney is an advance directive that allows your child to grant you (or another adult) the legal authority to make healthcare decisions on their behalf in the event they become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions for themselves.
For example, medical power of attorney would allow you to make decisions about your child's medical treatment if they are in a car accident or become hospitalized due to COVID-19.
Without this document in place, you would be at a severe disadvantage if your child has a serious illness or injury that requires hospitalization. If you need access to their medical records to make decisions about their treatment, you'd have to petition the court to become their legal guardian. While a parent is typically the court's first choice for guardian, the guardianship process can be both slow and expensive. This inconvenience can be avoided with medical power of attorney.
Due to HIPAA laws, once your child becomes 18, no one—not even parents—is legally authorized to access their medical records without prior written permission. A properly drafted medical power of attorney will include a signed HIPAA authorization, so you can immediately access their medical records to make informed decisions about their healthcare.
While medical power of attorney allows you to make healthcare decisions on your child's behalf during their incapacity, a living will is an advance directive that provides specific guidance about how your child's medical decisions should be made, particularly at the end of life.
For example, a living will allows your child to let you know if and when they want life support removed should they ever require it. In addition to documenting how your child wants their medical care managed, a living will can also include instructions about who should be able to visit them in the hospital and even what kind of food they should be fed.
This is vital if your child has specific dietary preferences or has allergies. For example, if he or she is a vegan, gluten-free, has certain allergies or takes specific supplements, these things should be noted in their living will. It's also important if you don't know all of their friends or who they would want to be part of their medical decision-making should they become unable to make decisions on their own behalf.
Additionally, remember to speak with your child about the unique medical scenarios related to COVID-19, particularly in regards to intubation, ventilators, and experimental medications.
Durable Financial Power of Attorney
Should your child become incapacitated, you may also need the ability to access and manage their finances, and this requires your child to grant you durable financial power of attorney.
The durable financial power of attorney gives you the authority to manage their financial and legal matters, such as paying their tuition, applying for student loans, managing their bank accounts, and collecting government benefits. Without this document, you'll have to petition the court for such authority.
Peace of Mind
As parents, it's normal to experience anxiety as your child becomes an adult. With the pandemic still a current reality, these fears have undoubtedly intensified. While you can't totally prevent the unforeseen, you can put measures in place to ensure that things will be easier for you and your family in the event of an emergency.
North County Legal offers a Young Adult Protection Plan that will help you and your young adult child to put safeguards in place during this difficult and uncertain time.
Contact us today to get started.