Carol F. Barton
Once children turn eighteen they are legally considered adults. Parents lose their legal rights to make decisions for their children, and lose the ability to access the children’s financial and health information. Proper estate planning can ensure someone is authorized to make financial and medical decisions in the event the young adult becomes disabled. So, when your child is headed off to college or out into the world, it’s crucial that you meet with an attorney, in advance, to prepare the documents that will allow you to step in – in the event of an emergency.
Three essential documents a young adult should have in place are:
- Health Care Proxy
- HIPAA Authorization
- Durable Power of Attorney
A health care proxy allows the young adult to name an individual (usually the parent) to make medical decisions if they are unable to do so.
A HIPAA Authorization allows the young adult to designate persons to have access to his or her medical information and for health care providers to talk to you about your child’s condition and treatment. Even if your child is listed on your health care insurance policy, the proxy will allow the insurer to talk to you about claims.
A Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) allows the young adult to name a person to make financial decisions on their behalf. If your child became physically or mentally unable to handle his/her affairs, the DPOA would permit you pay bills, apply for social security or government benefits if needed and to open and close accounts if necessary.
The cost to create these documents far outweighs the issues and your response to them following an emergency and will ensure that you, not a stranger, is in place to make critical decisions for your loved one.