Every season comes with new adventures and new chapters. Back to school, back to work, seasonal and holiday travel all come with risks. Here is what you need to do each season to ensure your family is protected both physically and financially.
Adult children often go off to college, study abroad, or travel around the world. Parents feel responsible for their child long after their child turns 18; however, from a legal standpoint they are “strangers”. As a parent you do not have the right to obtain medical information regarding your legal age son or daughter, as if you were strangers. This is the case, regardless if the adult-child is covered under his parent’s health insurance policy.
Medical providers have discretion to decide whether to disclose medical information to a relative if they believe it is in the best interest of the patient. However this is not often the case, especially if the medical provider does not know the patient’s relative.
The Solution: There are three forms that will aid the involvement of a parent or relative in a medical emergency- HIPAA authorization, medical power of attorney, and durable power of attorney.
HIPAA Authorization: A signed HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) authorization form gives permission to your medical provider and health insurance company to disclose medical information to whomever you specify. Young adults who are concerned about disclosure of sensitive information related to sex, drugs, and mental health but still want their parents involved in their care can specify what information may or may not be disclosed on the form. A signed HIPAA authorization before her son required medical attention would have been enough for our client to obtain her son’s health information.
Medical Power of Attorney: A medical power of attorney is sometimes referred to as a healthcare surrogate, or healthcare proxy. This document allows you to plan ahead for difficult medical decisions. It allows your child to name someone (“agent”) that will make healthcare decisions for them in case they are unable to. This is crucial because it prevents disagreements within the family as to who should make these critical decisions. Such decisions include consenting to certain medical procedures, seeking a second opinion, obtaining medical records, or transferring you to a different facility.
Durable Power of Attorney: A durable power of attorney (“DPOA”) allows you (“the principal”) to select a person (“the agent”) to “step into your shoes” if you become mentally or physically incapacitated. Incapacity means that a person has a disabling medical condition that prevents them from managing their basic needs and financial affairs. Incapacity can be caused by a number of conditions including Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Parkinson’s, etc. With a properly executed Power of Attorney, the agent will be able to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf. This is a very trusting position so you should appoint a family member or close friend.
Many snowbirds travel down to spend their winters in sunny Florida. Although you may have your estate planning documents drawn up in your home state, it is often a good idea to get a parallel set drawn up in the state in which you have a second home. Having advance directives such as a power of attorney or living will drawn up by lawyers licensed in both states is a good way to avoid complications. This is because local financial institutions such as a real estate title company may not honor an out-of-state document. For snowbirds with homes in two distant jurisdictions it is best to keep them in a revocable trust so that heirs do not have to deal with probate in two separate states.
Before you head back up north for the spring and summer, consider some ways you can improve the snowbird lifestyle.
Tax and Legal Issues – Depending on how much time you reside in your snowbird home, you may end up paying income taxes in two states. States have varying rules on residency and inheritance taxes. If you don’t plan to return home before April 17, you’ll need to bring your income tax documents with you.
With so many amazing places to visit in the world that are more accessible than ever, travel abroad can be wonderful. It can also be risky. Even the most basic issues can be difficult when you do not speak the native language and are unfamiliar with local laws.
Always expect the unexpected. We’ve all been there – we drank the local water and ended up spending most of our vacation in the bathroom or worse, in the hospital. While health care is generally cheaper in countries outside of the U.S, those costs can quickly add up; especially if you need to be transported back home.
An easy solution is to purchase travel medical insurance. There are many providers and coverage is generally quite affordable. For instance, a 38 year old traveling to Europe can receive up to $2 million in coverage for roughly $136. Of course, specific coverage depends on numerous factors including where you are travelling to and how many places you will be visiting.
As mentioned above, a Power of Attorney and Health Care Surrogate are crucial documents to have. It allows you to select a person to “step into your shoes” if you become mentally or physically incapacitated. With a properly executed Power of Attorney, the agent will be able to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf.
Both of these documents are crucial in case of an emergency abroad. While laws vary in different countries, the rule of comity should render your documents valid outside of the U.S.
Contact OC Estate & Elder Law at (954) 251-0332 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how effective legal strategies can help you travel without worry and stay on top of seasonal life changes.