Estate planning is probably one of the last things your teenage kids are thinking about. However, given the dire threat coronavirus represents, it should become their number one priority as soon as they turn 18. 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.
That makes your young adult 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 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.
Without medical power of attorney in place, 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.
Furthermore, due to HIPAA laws, once your child becomes 18, no one—even parents—is legally authorized to access his or her medical records without prior written permission. A properly drafted medical power of attorney will include a signed HIPAA authorization, though, so you can immediately access their medical records to make informed decisions about their healthcare.
Unlike a medical power of attorney, which 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 wants their medical decisions to be made.
For example, a living will allows your child to leave directions on if and when they want life support removed should they ever require it. Additionally, 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 crucial if your child has specific dietary preferences or needs, such as if he or she is a vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, or takes specific supplements. All of these things should be noted in their living will. It’s also important if you don’t know their friends or who they would want to be part of their medical decision-making should they become unable to make decisions for themself.
While going through with this, it is important to speak with your child about the unique medical scenarios related to COVID-19, particularly in regards to intubation, ventilators, and experimental medications.
Durable Financial Power of Attorney
You may also need the ability to access and manage your child’s finances should they become incapacitated, and this requires your child to grant you durable financial power of attorney.
Similar to a medical 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 which, again, can be a long and expensive process.
Peace of Mind
It’s normal to experience anxiety as your child individuates and becomes an adult and with the pandemic still raging, these fears have undoubtedly intensified in parents across the globe. While you can’t totally prevent your child from an unforeseen illness or injury, with us as your Personal Family Lawyer®, 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.
This article is a service of Levi Alexander, 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. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.