Documents that Your Young-Adult Child Should Have (and Doesn’t!)
Your baby is now 18-years old. Maybe off to college. Maybe living on their own. Not really a baby anymore, and no longer under your thumb. Thankfully, there are a few legal documents they can sign that will give you some comfort and ensure that you still have the right to help them in times of need.
BackgroundAs a parent, you were always able to make your child’s medical decisions; when they turn 18-years old (legal adult!), you are no longer able to do so. As a result of health-care privacy laws (HIPAA), you can no longer access their medical records -- and you were the one who took, and you may still take, your child to the doctor. Indeed, you were present for their appointments and their procedures, and you picked up prescriptions for them and more.
But if your child does not name you as their patient advocate under a patient-advocate designation, you may be left powerless at the time your child needs you most. From unexpected illness to sports injuries and auto accidents, parents often do not realize the need for this important legal document until it is too late and their high school or college student are no longer able to name a patient advocate. Parents in this situation will find themselves in probate court, paying significant fees and losing precious time – but a few simple legal documents are the only thing you need to prevent this from happening to your family.
Patient-Advocate DesignationYour young-adult child should execute a patient-advocate designation and living will. They should name patient advocates – presumably their parents -- to make medical decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated. No one wants to think about their child passing, but the living will portion of the same document enables your child to state their preferences for end-of-life scenarios. This is never an easy decision, but knowing an individual’s preferences makes it easier for those left to make this decision.
Medical AuthorizationYour young-adult child should also execute a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) medical authorization. Your ability to make informed decisions for your child when named as a patient advocate will be meaningless if you cannot obtain the information about your child’s medical condition. The HIPAA waiver permits doctors and other medical personnel to provide you with your child’s medical information without violating the law. This authorization is often included in the patient-advocate designation and living will.
Financial Power-of-AttorneyYour young-adult child should also sign a financial power-of-attorney. Should they become incapacitated, you can help with their financial affairs, from bills to student loans.
SummaryIf you don’t have these documents, to make medical decisions on your adult child’s behalf and to gain access to their medical records you will have to file an action in probate court to be appointed their guardian. In addition to costing money, even without an attorney, this is a major inconvenience. Needing to go to probate court can also cause significant delays at a time when every second counts for your child. Any parent who has been in this unenviable position would have preferred to have had a signed patient-advocate designation, prepared long before the time of crisis. Similarly, the durable power-of-attorney can save you from having to be appointed conservator through a probate-court proceeding if you need to handle your child's financial affairs.
All adults, and their adult children, should have these important documents in place. Whether your young adult child is off to college or is turning 18 while in high school, proper planning can protect your child and save you from a probate proceeding during a time of crisis.