Before Your Kids Leave for College, Make Sure They Sign These Legal Documents

BEFORE YOUR KIDS LEAVE FOR COLLEGE, MAKE SURE THEY SIGN THESE LEGAL DOCUMENTS

Many parents will soon watch their children become adults (at least in the eyes of the law) and leave home to pursue their education and career goals.

Turning 18 and moving out is a huge accomplishment. And  it also comes with some serious responsibilities that probably aren’t at the forefront of their (or your) mind right now. Once your children become legal adults, many areas that were once under your control are now solely up to them.

Here’s the big one: Before they turned 18, you had the power to make all of their healthcare decisions and had access to their financial accounts. After they turn 18, however, you’re no longer able to do either.

Before your kids head out into the world, you should discuss and have them sign the following estate planning documents, so if they become incapacitated, you can easily access their medical records and financial accounts without having to go to court. Signing these documents will ensure that if they ever do need your help and guidance, you’ll have the legal authority to easily provide it.

MEDICAL POWER OF ATTORNEY – Advance Health Care Directive

Medical power of attorney allows your child to name an agent (like you), who has the power to make healthcare decisions for them if they’re incapacitated and cannot make such decisions for themselves. For example, this authority allows you to make medical decisions if your child is knocked unconscious in a car accident or falls into a coma due to an illness. In California, this document is knows as an Advance Health Care Directive.

That said, while a medical power of attorney would give you authority to view your child’s medical records and make treatment decisions, that authority may only go into effect if the child becomes incapacitated unless your child indicates that the power of attorney is effective immediately. This means that unless your child is incapacitated, you do not have the authority to view their medical records, which are considered private under HIPAA.

HIPAA AUTHORIZATION

Passed in 1996, the “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act,” or HIPAA, requires health care providers and insurance companies to protect the privacy of a patient’s health records. Once your child becomes 18, no one—even parents—is legally authorized to access his or her medical records without prior written permission.

But this is easily remedied by having your child sign a HIPAA authorization that grants you the authority to access his or her medical records. This can be critical if you ever need to make informed decisions about your child’s medical care.

LIVING WILL

While medical power of attorney allows you to make medical decisions over your child’s ongoing healthcare if they’re incapacitated, a living will provides specific guidelines for how their medical care should be handled at the end of life.

A living will details how they want medical decisions made for them, not just who makes them. But such power only goes into effect if the child is terminally ill, which typically means they have less than six months to live.

Your child may have certain wishes for their end-of-life care, so it’s important you discuss these decisions with them and have such provisions documented in a living will. For example, a living will allows the child to decide when and if they want life support removed if they ever require it. Since these are literally life-or-death decisions, you should document them in a living will to ensure they’re properly carried out.

The living will is included in our Advance Health Care Directives.

DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY

In the event your child becomes incapacitated, you’ll also need a durable power of attorney to access his or her financial accounts. If you do not have a signed, financial durable power of attorney, you’ll have to go to court to get access.

While medical power of attorney will authorize you to make healthcare-related decisions on their behalf, durable power of attorney will give you the authority to manage their financial and legal matters, such as paying bills, applying for Social Security benefits, and/or managing banking and other financial accounts.

If your child is getting ready to leave the nest to attend college or pursue some other life goal, you can trust us as your Personal Family Lawyer® to help your child articulate and legally protect their healthcare and medical wishes. With us in your corner, you’ll have peace of mind that your child will be well taken care of in the event of an unforeseen accident or illness.

This article is a service of Jill Gregory Law, a Personal Family Lawyer® firm. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Life and Legacy Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by clicking the button above or calling our office today at 949-514-8842 or 530-581-5455, to schedule a free 15 Minute Phone Consult with Jill Gregory, or a full Planning Session today. Mention this article to find out how to get this $750 Life and Legacy Planning Session at no charge.

The content is sourced from Personal Family Lawyer® for use by Personal Family Lawyer® firms, a source believed to be providing accurate information. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.