The day many of our kids have been waiting for is finally here: high school graduation! If you have a child graduating and about to turn 18, now is the time to prepare, especially if they are about to leave the nest for the first time.
High school graduation is a major accomplishment and the coming of age is also a major milestone. Like most milestones in life, they’re usually followed by some exciting changes and freedoms. However, they’re also usually followed by new responsibilities. Even though our children will always be babies in our eyes, once your child turns 18, they are considered adults in the eyes of the law and specific areas of their lives that were once under your control, will be solely their responsibility.
Although your child will be an adult, you still have essential parental duties. One of them should be to support your child to step into adulthood with essential legal documents that will help both of you in case of an emergency.
For example, in the event of a car accident or other incident that results in your child being taken to a hospital, you would not have the automatic authority to make medical decisions or handle their financial matters. In fact, without legal documentation, you wouldn’t even be able to access their medical records or anything that is in their names only without a court order.
To address this vulnerability and ensure your family never finds itself in this situation or an unnecessary court process, have a conversation about estate planning and have them sign the following three documents before your kids move out or head off to college:
1. Durable Power of Attorney
Should a tragedy happen, and your child is incapacitated and unable to make decisions or act for him or herself, you will want to have the ability to access and manage their day-to-day affairs, including their finances, and this requires your child to grant you durable power of attorney.
A durable power of attorney is what will give you the ability to manage their financial and legal matters, such as dealing with their school, insurance companies, lenders, paying their bills, negotiating (or re-negotiating) a lease, managing their bank accounts, and applying for or collecting government benefits, if necessary. Without this directive in place, a Court Order will be required for you to act on your child’s behalf.
2. Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney is similar to a Durable Power of Attorney except that is has to do with making health care decisions. Your child will be able to grant you (or someone else) the legal authority to make healthcare decisions on their behalf, if they become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions for themselves.
For example, the medical power of attorney would allow you to make decisions about your child’s medical treatment if he or she is unconscious from a car accident or in a coma.
Without a medical power of attorney in place, if your child suffers a severe accident or illness that requires hospitalization and you need access to make decisions about their treatment, you’d have to petition the court to become their legal guardian. While a parent is typically the court’s first choice for a guardian, the guardianship process can be slow and expensive.
Also, due to HIPAA laws, once your child becomes 18, no one—not even parents—are legally authorized to access their medical records without prior written permission. An adequately drafted medical power of attorney will also include a signed HIPAA authorization, so you medical providers will be able to release their medical records to you.
3. Living Will
While the medical power of attorney gives you the authority to make healthcare decisions on your child’s behalf if they are unable to make them for themselves, a living will is an advance directive that allows your child to provide specific guidance about what they would like those medical decisions to be, particularly at the end of life.
Start Adulthood The Right Way
Go off to college or moving away from home is a major step and hard enough, make sure they’ve got the proper planning in place so that you (and they) can have the peace of mind knowing that you can be there for them, like you always have, should something happen to them. You are also modeling good financial stewardship and setting them up right from the start.
At The Solution Law Firm, P.A., we can not only help you create these vital documents, but we can also facilitate a family meeting to discuss the importance of planning. We will begin what we hope will be a life-long relationship with your children as they take this crucial first step into adulthood. Contact us today to ensure that if your child ever does need your help, you’ll have the legal authority to provide it.
This article is a service of The Solution Law Firm, P.A. We do not 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 Family 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 calling our office today to schedule a Family Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.
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