High School Graduation and Planning for the Future

May 30, 2018

Every New Chapter in Life, Requires Planning

Where did the time go? It seems like only yesterday that your baby was learning how to walk and today they are walking across a stage to receive their high school diploma. Their future is full of hope, and you as a parent are well deserved to share in the excitement. However, this time can also be stressful, as we want to ensure our children are ready to enter the world, prepared to face life’s challenges.

If your child recently graduated from high school, or is already in college, your child turning 18 years old is a big legal milestone. Your child will always be “your baby”, but the law treats them as adults with all the rights and responsibilities that come with it. While your child can now legally vote, join the military, and get a tattoo (hopefully they avoid this one), his/her newfound liberties can affect you (the parent) in important ways:

Medical Information

As legal adults, parents no longer have the authority to receive medical information and make healthcare decisions on their child’s behalf. I often see cases where a child is hurt while away at school, and ends up in an emergency room. If your child is 18 or older, the hospital is prohibited from providing you with any information about the status of your child over the phone. In fact, hospitals often refuse to even confirm or deny that a person was admitted to the hospital as a patient. From there, the parents then must make the frantic drive to the child’s school (usually at 3am) not knowing whether their child is ok.

Health Care Surrogate, Living Will and HIPAA authorization

As it relates to healthcare decisions, a Health Care Surrogate allows your child to appoint you as her agent to act on her behalf if she cannot act for herself. For example, if your child is incapacitated, you will have the authority to make those necessary healthcare decisions on her behalf.

Such decisions include what doctors your child will see, which hospitals your child will go to, what treatment your child will receive, and ultimately whether or not to “pull the plug”. Nobody wants to think of their child in that situation, but keep in mind the ordeal that occurred in the well-known case of Teri Schiavo, who was 26 years old when she became legally incapacitated. A living will allows your child to state her wishes about end-of-life medical care and can avoid a legal nightmare, like the Teri Schiavo case.

In addition, your child should also execute a HIPAA waiver which will allow your child to designate you as a person who is able to receive medical information from her healthcare providers. All three of these are critical documents that you will need to avoid the scary middle-of-the-night drive to your child’s school scenario mentioned above. Instead, if your child has a health emergency away from home, you will be able to e-mail those documents to the healthcare facility and someone from the healthcare facility will be allowed to speak with you regarding the condition of your child.

Durable Power of Attorney

With respect to legal and financial decisions, a Durable Power of Attorney will allow your child to appoint you as her agent to act on her behalf if she cannot act for herself. For example, if your child is incapacitated, you will be able to write checks from her bank account on her behalf.

With every new chapter in life, careful planning is required to achieve goals and minimize hardships. Effective estate planning is a useful way of ensuring you can be there for your adult child, in case of an emergency. Contact OC Estate and Elder Law at (954) 251-0332 or info@ocestatelawyers.com to receive a personalized consultation regarding you estate planning options.