It's time to go back to school! For many, that means going back to school in-person for the first time in over a year. Whether your child is starting elementary school or headed off to college, the to-do list before the first day can be long, including school supplies, new clothes, getting in doctor's visits, and more. If your child is turning 18 or headed off to college and beyond, there is one more crucial thing to add to that list: legal documents.
When a person turns 18 (despite their sometimes-complete inability to function on their own as a grownup), they become an adult in the face of law. This means parents -- even if they’re still primary caregivers, support team, and bankrollers -- no longer have the legal right to inquire or direct decisions for medical, financial, or educational records. This may be a bit frightening, but just a few documents provide a simple fix. It's a good idea for anyone 18 and older to have in place a Health Care Durable Power of Attorney, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Release, and Durable Power of Attorney.
The Health Care Durable Power of Attorney is arguably the most important of these documents, because after 18, parents can no longer direct medical decisions for their children. Your child could have an accident, be laying in an emergency room bed at a hospital near their university campus away from their childhood home, and you are unable to make critical care decisions related to your child’s medical care. The Health Care Durable Power of Attorney appoints an individual to make medical decisions on their behalf (usually you, Mom or Dad) in the case that they are incapacitated
The HIPAA Release is just as important because after 18, medical professionals can no longer legally disclose any medical information to people other than the patient, even to a parent or guardian. In a life-or-death emergency, the 18-year old’s parent may be locked out of the room, so to speak, while their child’s doctor makes decisions about the child’s care. By signing a HIPAA medical release form, the child can grant parents access to the information, before a catastrophe happens. That way, if there is a medical emergency, parents can get information from the doctors even if the child is unable to consent.
Lastly, a Durable Power of Attorney can be helpful because it gives parents the authority to be involved financially in their child's life. A Durable Power of Attorney allows designated Agents (again, probably you, parents) to do things like pay bills, view bank accounts, cancel contracts, speak to landlords or speak to the child's university or school. There is a balance between allowing 18-year-olds to have some independence, but still being able to help out conveniently when needed. These documents are also helpful if your child studies abroad.
The Estate Planning team at Stock Legal is eager to help anyone looking to get legal documents prepared for their child, or any other estate planning needs. Call us any time at 314-288-0061, or reach Dan Julius, the head of the department, at firstname.lastname@example.org .