As parents we are used to taking care of our children’s medical and financial needs, this does not usually end when our children go off to college or ventures off into the world on their own. However what most parents do not realize, once their child turns eighteen, they are not legally entitled to make any medical or financial decisions on their child’s behalf. Turning 18 is a milestone birthday for many people; it is the year a child becomes a legal adult. Upon turning 18, the law assumes that the child has accumulated enough knowledge to make legal decisions on their own behalf. These include, but may not be limited to, entering into contracts and making healthcare decisions. The reality is that many eighteen year olds are unprepared for the responsibility that these type of decisions bring. This presents a challenge as a parent; legally the parent can no longer make decisions for their children, yet children often turn to their parents for assistance and guidance in making decisions. This is where a health care proxy and power of attorney can become invaluable tools.
A health care proxy is a document that gives someone else the power to make health care decisions on your behalf. Often a trusted family member or friend is chosen as that person. This person is known as the health care agent. A health care agent only has the power to make health care decisions when someone is incapacitated and cannot make decisions for themselves. This document can also include a HIPAA authorization that allows the release of medical records to the health care agent. If you were to receive a call from your child’s friend that your son or daughter had been in an accident and taken to the hospital, the heath care proxy will allow you to jump into action to make decisions regarding your child’s treatment. Without it, expect to be rebuffed by your child’s medical providers who are legally unable to provide you with information regarding your child’s condition or treatment.
A power of attorney gives someone else the power to make financial decisions on your behalf. Much like a health care proxy, the power of attorney gives the designated agent the power to make financial decisions, but unlike the health care proxy, a power of attorney can be valid when signed; it is not contingent on incapacity. A power of attorney will allow you to assist your child with their banking or to speak on their behalf to their car insurance company or their landlord.
With children away from home at college, these can be powerful time saving tools and can help avoid unnecessary legal mishaps that young adults may unwittingly get themselves into.
The estate planning attorneys at Baker, Braverman & Barbadoro, P.C. can speak with your family and draft the estate plan that fits your needs and goals, including health care proxies and powers of attorney for young adults. – Elizabeth A. Caruso.