An estate planning attorney’s office is the last place you’ll find most college kids, but when your child turns 18, this is one meeting you need to schedule. Why? Because once your child reaches age 18, you no longer have the legal authority to make medical decisions on her behalf, nor are you automatically authorized to manage her finances.
While your child is likely grateful for this independence, what would happen if she were in a car accident and suffered a debilitating injury? Before you could communicate with her doctors, make decisions concerning medical procedures, or access her bank account to make sure that her bills were paid, you’d have to go to court and be appointed her guardian or conservator.
A visit to an estate planning attorney can help prevent this unpleasant scenario, and make sure you have the power to step in and make decisions on your college student’s behalf if she ever faces a situation where she can’t make decisions for herself. This is done through an incapacity plan, a set of documents that pre-authorizes you to take certain actions on behalf of your child. An incapacity plan generally includes the following documents:
- A Medical Power of Attorney: This is a document with which your child names you as her agent for purposes of making health care decisions. With a Medical Power of Attorney in place, you have the power to direct your child’s care in the event of a debilitating injury or illness.
- A HIPAA Authorization: This is a document that permits your child’s doctors to communicate with you concerning her medical records and medical care. Absent a HIPAA Authorization, you can be faced with a number of hoops to jump through before you can talk to your child’s doctors.
- A Financial Power of Attorney: This is a document that pre-authorizes you to access your child’s bank accounts, pay bills on her behalf, and even apply for government benefits on your child’s behalf, if the need arises.
Your estate planning attorney can help your child prepare for an emergency, and ensure that you have the power to be there for her if she needs you.