Ok, entering your first year in College is a major step in a child’s life. It also comes with serious responsibilities that you and your child probably aren’t thinking much about right now.
You see, once your child turns 18, they become a legal adult, and specific areas of their lives that were once under your control as their parent — like their healthcare and finances — will be solely your child’s responsibility because now they’re an adult.
Why is this a problem?
If your child gets into a severe car accident and requires hospitalization, you would no longer have the automatic authority to make decisions about his or her medical treatment or handle their financial matters. In fact, without legal documentation, you wouldn’t even be able to access his or her medical records or bank accounts without a court order.
If you want to make sure that you would have the legal authority to make decisions about college kids’ medical treatment or handle their financial matters in these types of emergencies or otherwise, then you must have your adult children sign these 3 Vital Estate Planning Documents right now:
1. Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney is document that allows your child to grant you (or someone else) the immediate 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 decide about your child’s medical treatment if he or she is knocked unconscious in a car accident or falls into a coma due to a debilitating illness.
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 their medical records 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. And it is NOT guaranteed that you will be chosen by the judge to be their guardian by the end of it.
And due to HIPAA privacy laws, once your adult child becomes 18, no one—not even a parent—is legally authorized to access an adult child’s medical records without his or her prior written permission.
But an adequately drafted medical power of attorney will include a signed HIPAA authorization, so you can immediately access their medical records to make informed decisions about their treatment.
2. Living Will
While the medical power of attorney allows you to make healthcare decisions on your adult child’s behalf during their incapacity, a living will is a document that your child that states how they would want their end of life decisions to be respected so that burden is not left on your shoulders.
For example, if your child was determined by two doctors to be irreversibly and permanently unconscious, they’re never coming back and the only reason they are still living is because they are on life support, then a living will allow your child to decide if and when they’d want life support withdrawn.
By having your adult child make their decision on this matter now, your family would never have to go through the long and costly family conflict that arose when Terry Schivo’s family was stuck fighting over whether or not to remove Terry from life support.
3. Durable Financial Power of Attorney
Should your child become incapacitated, you may also need the ability to access and manage their finances, and this requires your child to grant you a durable financial power of attorney.
This document gives you the authority to manage their financial and legal matters, such as being able to deposit money in their bank accounts without you having to ask them for their account numbers, paying your child’s bills out of their accounts, among other financial decisions. Without this document, you’ll have to petition the court for such authority.
So, in summary, if you want to make sure you’d have the legal authority to help your children in college with their healthcare and finances — especially in emergencies — then you need them to sign a medical power of attorney, living will, and power of attorney. If you’d like help putting this documentation in place, then please schedule an initial 15-minute call with us so we can discuss how we can do just that. You can schedule that 15-minute call with us — for free — Clicking here.
This article is a service of estate planning attorney Elliott Feldman and the Elliott Feldman Law Group. 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 Prosperity 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 Prosperity Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 planning session at no charge.