With the arrival of summer, young people all over the country are reaching a key milestone: high school graduation. If you have a child claiming their diploma this year, this is the time to prepare them for life after leaving the nest.
While graduating high school is a significant accomplishment, it comes with serious responsibilities that your child probably isn’t thinking much about. Once your child turns 18, they become a legal adult. This means specific areas of their lives that were once under your control will be solely their responsibility.
Even though your child will now be a legal adult, you still have essential parental duties. If you don’t support your child to step into adulthood with legal documents to help, it can be challenging and costly for you to help them in the event of an emergency.
For example, should your child get into a severe car accident which requires a long term 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 proper legal documentation, you wouldn’t even be able to access his or her medical records or bank accounts.
To address this vulnerability and ensure your family never gets stuck in an unnecessary court process, you should have a conversation about Wills and Trusts planning and have them sign the following three documents prior to their leaving the nest.
1. Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney is the first document your child needs. This document is an advance healthcare directive 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, a medical power of attorney would allow you to make decisions 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 , if your child suffers a severe accident or illness that requires hospitalization and you need access to his or her medical records to make decisions about their treatment, you’d have to petition the court to become their legal guardian. Even though a parent is typically the court’s first choice for a guardian, the guardianship process can be slow and expensive.
Additionally, due to HIPAA laws, once your child becomes 18, no one else—not even parents—is legally authorized to access his or her medical records without prior written permission. In response to this, an adequately drafted medical power of attorney will also include a signed HIPAA authorization, so you can immediately access their medical records to make informed decisions about their treatment.
2. Living Will
While a 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 regarding your child’s wishes regarding his medial treatment. These are specifications on how your child which his of her medical decisions should be made, particularly at the end of life.
For example, a living will allows your child to advise you on if and when they want life support removed should they ever require it. In addition to documenting how your child requests their medical care be handled, a living will can also include instructions about who should visit them in the hospital and even what kind of food they would want to have provided. For example, if your child is a vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, or takes specific supplements, these can be denoted in his or her living will. Therefore, these are all things that should be considered and recorded in their living will.
Finally, you should speak with your child about the unique medical decisions related to the coronavirus, particularly in intubation, ventilators, and experimental medications. Your child’s quality of life decisions regarding these procedures should also be outlined in their living will.
3. Durable Financial Power of Attorney
Should your child become incapacitated, you may also need the ability to access and manage their finances as well as handle their legal matters . This requires your child to grant you durable financial power of attorney.
A properly executed durable financial power of attorney gives you the authority to manage your child’s financial and legal matters, such as paying their tuition, applying for student loans, paying their rent, negotiating (or re-negotiating) a lease, managing their bank accounts, and collecting government benefits. Without this document, you’ll have to petition the court for such authority.
Start Adulthood The Right Way
Before your child head out into the world, make sure they’ve got the proper planning in place. By doing so, you are modeling good financial stewardship and setting them up properly for success. Financial and legal illiteracy is an epidemic in America which you can quickly address, starting with yourself and your own family.
As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can not only help you create these documents, but we can also facilitate a meeting to discuss the importance of planning. We will begin what we hope will be a life-long relationship with your child as they take this crucial first step into adulthood. Contact us today commence the process to ensure that if your child ever does need your help, you’ll have the legal authority to provide it.
This article is a service of Levi L. Alexander, Personal Family Lawyer®. We do not just draft documents. We help to ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. This is why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™. During this session, 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 to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session for free.