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Once Your Kids Are 18, Make Sure They Sign These Documents.

Estate planning for young adult children is a rising concern in these times. While estate planning is probably the last thing on your teenage kid’s mind, but with the dire threat of coronavirus (and any other number of things that can and do happen), when they turn 18, it should be their (and your) number-one priority. Here’s why: At 18, they become legal adults in the eyes of the law, so you no longer have the authority to make decisions regarding their healthcare, nor will you have access to their financial accounts if something happens to them.

Without your experience and oversight, your young adult would be extremely vulnerable in the event they become incapacitated by COVID-19 or another malady and lose their ability to make decisions about their own medical care. Seeing that putting a plan in place could literally save their lives, if your kids are already 18 or about to hit that milestone, it’s crucial that you discuss these issues and have them sign the following documents.

Medical Power of Attorney

Medical power of attorney is an advance directive that allows your child to grant you (or someone else) the legal authority to make healthcare decisions on their behalf in the event they become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions for themselves.

For example, medical power of attorney would allow you to make decisions about your child’s medical treatment if he or she is in a car accident or is hospitalized with COVID-19.

There are a host of nightmare scenarios that come to mind when considering your child’s care and the anguish of the family if there is no medical power of attorney in place. For example, with the medical power of attorney,  if your child has a serious illness or injury 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 guardian, the guardianship process can be both slow and expensive.

When your child becomes 18, no one—even parents—is legally authorized to access his or her medical records without prior written permission due to HIPAA laws. But a properly 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 healthcare. 

Living Will

While medical power of attorney allows you to make healthcare decisions on your child’s behalf during their incapacity, a living will is an advance directive that provides specific guidance about how your child’s medical decisions should be made, particularly at the end of life.

A living will provides the means for your child to let you know if and when they want life support removed should they ever require it. In addition to documenting how your child wants their medical care managed, a living will can also include instructions about who should be able to visit them in the hospital and even what kind of food they should be fed.

This is especially vital if your child has specific dietary preferences. For example, if he or she is a vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, or takes specific supplements, these things should be noted in their living will. It’s also important if you don’t know all of their friends or who they would want to be part of their medical decision-making should they become unable to make decisions for themself.

In addition, remember to speak with your child about the unique medical scenarios related to COVID-19, particularly in regard to intubation, ventilators, and experimental medications.

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 durable financial power of attorney.

Durable financial power of attorney gives you the authority to manage their financial and legal matters, such as paying their tuition, applying for student loans, managing their bank accounts, and collecting government benefits. Without this document, you’ll have to petition the court for such authority.

Estate Planning for Young Adult Children Brings Peace of Mind

As parents, it’s normal to experience anxiety as your child individuates and becomes an adult. With the pandemic still raging, these fears have undoubtedly intensified. While you can’t totally prevent your child from experiencing an unforeseen injury or illness, you can, with us helping as your Personal Family Lawyer®, you can be prepared as best you can.  With a medical power of attorney, living will, and durable financial power of attorney documentation in place you can at least rest assured that if your child ever does need your help, you’ll have the legal authority to provide it. Contact us today to get started with the process of estate planning for young adult children. Start by scheduling an initial consultation.

This article is a service of Natalya Evans, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t 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 Wealth 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. If your children are younger, you might consider including our Kids Protection Plan.

You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session.