Imagine receiving a phone call that your child is in the hospital thousands of miles away, and the doctors and nurses refuse to provide you with medical information about his or her condition. This is a very real situation that occurs when medical directives are not in place for adult children. Eighteen-year-olds are adults under the eyes of the law. Your son or daughter can vote, get married, make a will, sign a contract, open a bank account and get medical treatment – all without your approval. More importantly, this means that you no longer have the right to speak with your child’s doctors, make medical decisions, pay his/her bills, or access medical records without consent.
This is an ideal time to have a conversation with your child about the responsibilities of becoming an adult, and how to put plans in place to take over if they are unable to make decisions. In case of a medical emergency, the following documents will ensure that your son’s or daughter’s wishes will be carried out by the agent(s) he or she appoints.
Power of Attorney for Heath Care. This is also called a Medical Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy. This document can be effective immediately or when one becomes incapacitated, thereby granting the appointed agent the right to obtain medical information and to make medical decisions. Without this power of attorney in place, if your college student ends up in the ER, the hospital may refuse to provide you information about your child.
HIPPA Authorization. This authorization grants permission to health care providers to release the child’s medical information to the power of attorney agent, while still complying with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. HIPAA is a federal law that restricts medical professionals from releasing medical information to anyone except the patient, unless the patient specifically authorizes such persons. Because your college-age son or daughter is of legal age, you no longer have full access to his or her medical records. The HIPPA Authorization permits your son or daughter to grant you or another trusted adult the access to his or her medical information.
Property Power of Attorney. The power of attorney for property allows you to appoint an agent to handle financial matters. Like the power of attorney for health care, this can be effective immediately or upon incapacity. If your child is studying abroad or becomes incapacitated either temporarily or permanently, this allows you or another trusted adult to take care of financial matters for your child. Otherwise, you have no legal authority to act on your child’s behalf.
What if your son or daughter is going to college in another state? Will the power of attorney be valid in the new state? Yes, if a power of attorney is valid where you sign it then it will continue to be valid even if you change your state of residence.
If you want to know more about preparing your college-bound son or daughter, or have any estate planning questions, please contact Wilson & Wilson Estate Planning & Elder Law LLC at 847-656-8958.