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Before Your Kids Leave For College, Make Sure They Sign These Documents

by Phil Levin, Esq. on August 1st, 2018

With high school graduation coming up, many parents will soon watch their children become adults (at least in the eyes of the law) and leave home to pursue their education and career goals.

Turning 18, graduating high school, and moving out is a huge accomplishment. And it also comes with some serious responsibilities that probably aren’t at the forefront of their (or your) mind right now. However, when your children become legal adults, many areas that were once under your control are now solely up to them.

Here’s the big one: Before they turned 18, you had access to their financial accounts and had the power to make all of their healthcare decisions. After they turn 18, however, you’re no longer able to do either.

Before your kids head out into the world, you should discuss and have them sign the following estate planning documents, so if they become ill, injured, or incapacitated, you can easily access their medical records and financial accounts without having to go to court. Signing these documents will ensure that if they ever do need your help and guidance, you will have the legal authority to easily provide it.

Medical Power of Attorney

A Medical Power of Attorney allows your child to name an Agent, who has the power to make healthcare decisions for them if they are ever incapacitated and cannot make such decisions for themselves. For example, this authority allows you to make medical decisions if your child becomes unconscious in a car accident or suffers an illness and is not able to communicate their health care desires to medical care peoviders.

While a Medical Power of Attorney would give you authority to make treatment decisions, that authority only goes into effect if the child becomes incapacitated. This means that unless your child is incapacitated, you do not have the authority to view their medical records, which are considered private under HIPAA.

HIPPA Waiver Authorization

Passed in 1996, the “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act,” or HIPPA, requires health care providers and insurance companies to protect the privacy of a patient’s health records. Once your child becomes 18, no one—even parents—is legally authorized to access his or her medical records without prior written permission from your adult child.

But this is easily remedied by having your child sign a HIPPA Waiver Authorization that grants you the authority to access his or her medical records. This can be critical if you ever need to make informed decisions about your child’s medical care.

Advance Medical Directive (a/k/a: Living Will)

While a Medical Power of Attorney allows you to make medical decisions about your child’s ongoing healthcare if they are incapacitated, a living will provides specific guidelines for how their medical care should be handled at the end of life.

A Living Will details how an individual want medical treatment decisions made for them if he or she is terminally ill.

Your child may have certain wishes for their care, so it is important you discuss these decisions with them and have such provisions documented in a Living Will. For example, a Living Will allows the child to decide when and if they want life support removed if they ever require it. Since these are literally life-or-death decisions, you should document them in a Living Will to ensure they are properly carried out.

Durable Financial Power of Attorney

In the event that your child becomes incapacitated, you will also need a Durable Financial Power of Attorney to access his or her financial accounts. If you do not have a signed, Durable Financial Power of Attorney, you will not have access to their financial records and would be required to go to court in order to become appointed as the legal Guardian to gain access to their financial records.

While a Medical Power of Attorney will authorize you to make healthcare-related decisions on their behalf, a Durable Financial Power of Attorney will give you the authority to manage their financial and legal matters, such as paying bills, applying for Social Security benefits, and managing banking and other financial accounts.

If your child is getting ready to leave the nest to attend college or pursue some other life goal, you can trust The Levin Law Firm to help your child articulate and legally protect their healthcare and financial interests. With us in your corner, both your child and you will have peace of mind knowing that they will be well taken care of in the event of an unforeseen illness, accident, or injury.

At The Levin Law Firm, we do not just draft documents; we ensure that you make informed and empowered decisions for yourself and the people you love.

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