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Turning 18 – Graduating from High School? Yes, think Estate Planning

By May 23, 2019 July 11th, 2019 No Comments

Following graduation, family and friends look forward to opportunities that await these young adults. Their future is full of hope, and the parents and others deserve to share in this excitement. However, this can also be very stressful time, especially for parents who want to make sure they send their children into the world as prepared as possible.

If your child is graduating from high school (or, is already attending college), your child’s 18th birthday is a major legal milestone. Too often we forget the law regards them as legal adults. Yes, your child can now legally vote, join the military, and get a tattoo – but such freedoms can impact a young adult and parents in other important ways:

Access to Medical Information

As legal adults, parents no longer have the authority to receive medical information or make healthcare decisions on their child’s behalf. All too frequently we hear about situations where a child is injured while away at school – even winding up in the hospital. If your child is over 18-years old, a hospital is prohibited from providing you with any information about the status of your child, even refusing to confirm or deny that a he or she was admitted to the hospital.

A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare lets your child to appoint you as Agent to act on his or her behalf, if ever necessary. For instance, if your child is unconscious or in a coma, you will need to have proper authority to make necessary healthcare decisions on his or her behalf.

Many decisions may need to be made urgently, including the need to identify to which hospital your child will go, what doctors will provide treatment, and what treatment will be provided. In tragic cases, it can be a question of who has the authority to discontinue treatments at the end of life. While it is difficult to think about your child in this situation, there are well-known stories involving young people who became incapacitated, leading to painful and costly battles about what kind of care (if any) should be provided.

In addition, your child should also execute a HIPAA Authorization (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) which allows your child to designate one or more people who are able to receive protected medical information from healthcare providers. If needed, you will even be able to fax or e-mail these two documents to the hospital so that care providers can speak with you immediately about the condition of your child and treatment questions.

Attending to Property and Financial Matters – and Digital Assets

A Durable General Power of Attorney will allow your child to appoint you as Agent to act on other important matters, if necessary. For example, if your child needs your help addressing financial matters with a college business office, it is standard practice to require documentation permitting such conversations to take place. Another example, if your child is incapacitated, you will be able to write checks from his or her financial accounts; or, be able to address any contract matters, including rental agreements and school and auto loan matters.

At Legacy Law Group, we think addressing basic estate planning matters with your child this summer is a great way to introduce them to the responsibility of becoming an adult, while also helping put your worries at ease as they head off to college or their next venture. Call us today at 509.315.8087 for a complimentary discussion about how we can help you address these matters.