Back to school, back to school shopping, and back to school nerves (for most parents). If your child is going off to college to live on campus or near campus, you likely got some essentials. Essentials such as dorm décor, cellphone apps, Nike, Fitbit, or the latest earbuds that will end world hunger. But you will need more than bedding and a laptop to get through the year. How about the things that really matter – like being able to speak to their doctors and access their medical records in case of a serious accident?
There are 2 essential legal documents your children (who are technically now adults) should not leave home without: A Medical Power of Attorney (aka Health Care Surrogate or Health Care Proxy) and a Durable Power of Attorney. With these properly executed documents, parents can navigate through any accident, illnesses, or mistake kids will make as they start their new life away from home. Although they are forever “your babies,” from a legal standpoint, anyone age 18 and over is a legal adult. Your child now has complete power to make all legal and financial decisions for themselves.
What does this mean to you? This means that you as a parent, lose the right to make any medical decisions, financial or legal decisions for your children without the proper legal documents granting you such permission. If your child is injured in an accident, consumes any narcotic, develops a severe illness, or decides to go to Las Vegas with their financial aid money – there is nothing you can do about it unless you have these 2 properly executed estate planning documents.
Estate planning? For an 18-year-old? Yes. Estate planning is not just about setting up retirement plans for 40 years in the future or deciding who will get your money when you pass away. It is also about the here and now, especially when it comes to your grown-up child. For instance, if your child is in an accident and is brought into the emergency room unconscious and unable to make immediate decisions regarding their healthcare. The hospital will be legally forbidden from sharing your child’s medical information so you can make the best decision for their care. You can prevent this legal dilemma from making a tragic situation even worse by simply preparing (with your child present) some essential legal documents:
Medical Power of Attorney
Sometimes referred to as a healthcare surrogate or proxy, this document allows families to plan ahead for complex medical decisions. Your child will name a representative (the “agent”) to make their healthcare decisions if they cannot. This will save time on paperwork during an emergency, so you can act immediately. It also prevents disagreements within the family regarding who should make these critical decisions like consenting to certain medical procedures, seeking a second opinion, obtaining medical records, or transferring the child to a different facility.
A signed HIPAA Authorization or Waiver form is required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It permits medical providers and health insurance companies to disclose medical information to whomever your child specifies. If the college has a health clinic, for example, the clinic may require a HIPAA authorization form signed by your child to give you access to any information about their treatment there. You will find this signed form extremely useful and even comforting, especially if your child attends school away from home.
Living Will (usually part of the Medical Power of Attorney)
This document determines what will happen to your child’s most precious asset: their very life. It allows them to decide what kind of care they will receive if a catastrophic illness or accident strikes. Will they want medical providers to use any means necessary to keep them alive, or will they want to have their life ended peacefully and quickly? This kind of decision is best made when everyone is rational and calm – not in the middle of the crisis. It also frees family members from guessing what the loved one “would have wanted.”
Durable Power of Attorney
Besides healthcare decisions, your adult child may need someone to oversee legal and financial matters if they are incapacitated. A durable power of attorney (“DPOA”) allows your child to select an agent to carry out their legal and financial matters on their behalf in case of your child’s incapacity. Incapacity can be caused by several conditions, including a severe physical accident, excessive drug or alcohol consumption or a serious illness. The agent will be able to make legal and financial decisions like contacting your child’s bank, credit card companies, insurance companies, and accessing their social media accounts. The DPOA takes effect immediately and ends when the person passes away.
College Student Security Kit
Now is the time to gather these documents and send your grown child off with legal, financial, and medical contingencies covered. We are making it easier for you to gather all these documents in one convenient package: the College Student Security Kit. During August and September, we offer this comprehensive resource for a flat rate of $500. It includes the Designation of Health Care Surrogate Form, Living Will, HIPAA Release Authority and the Durable Power of Attorney.
No matter what the law says, your child will never outgrow their need for your help and support. One of the most critical ways to be there for them is to gather the legal documents they may need one day. Contact OC Estate and Elder Law at (954) 251-0332 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a free personalized consultation. Our attorneys are fluent in English, Spanish and Russian.