As a parent, you are quite accustomed to managing your children’s legal and medical affairs, as circumstances require. If your child requires urgent medical attention while away from you, a simple phone call authorizing care can do the trick. But what happens when those “children” turn 18, now adults in the eyes of the law, and need urgent medical attention far from home?
The simple fact is that the day your child turns 18, he or she becomes an adult and has the legal rights of an adult. This means that you lose your prior held rights to make medical and financial decisions for your child unless your child executes legal documents giving you those rights back. Without the proper legal documents, accessing medical information and even being informed about your adult child’s medical condition can be difficult and in some cases, impossible.
When sending kids off to college, it is crucial to consider the legal implications of an accident or medical emergency on your ability to stay informed and participate in important decision-making for your young adult child. Medical professionals are responsible for following the Privacy Rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which ensures medical privacy protection for all adults. Once your child turns 18, they are (from a legal perspective) no more attached to you than a stranger, making communication about medical issues is tricky if your child is incapacitated and not able to grant permission on their own.
In most states, these three legal documents can make all the difference when a medical crisis strikes and your young adult child is far from home. When utilized together, they can ensure a parent or trusted adult be kept in the loop about care and treatment when a child over the age of 18 experiences a medical event while they are away at college, traveling, or living far from home. As with most legal documents, the law varies from state to state, so be sure to seek out the counsel with us, your Personal Family Lawyer® to determine which forms suit your situation best.
Health Care Directive
Our Health Care Directives have two important elements. First, it designates an agent to make medical decisions for the young adult. This could be you, as the parent or another trusted adult. Second, it has “the HIPAA language.” Essentially like a permission slip, this language/authorization allows your adult child to specify who is allowed access to their personal medical information. Specific information can be specifically withheld, such as drug use, sexual activity, and mental health issues so that additional privacy can be protected if desired.
Each state has different laws governing health care decisions. In Minnesota, we call the document a Health Care Directive. Other states may refer to the document as a medical power of attorney. Different states may require different forms. Be sure to check with us, your Personal Family Lawyer® to be sure you are following the laws of your state and the state where your child resides.
Durable Financial Power Of Attorney
This document allows the parent or another trusted adult to take care of personal business if the adult child cannot do so. This form would allow the parent to take care of such important tasks such as signing tax returns, paying bills, and accessing bank accounts for the incapacitated adult child. A durable power of attorney is powerful and gives broad access to sensitive financial and legal decision-making and should only be given to a trusted relative or friend.
The milestones come quickly once children graduate high school and enter the big, wide world away from home. As your family navigates these significant rites of passage, consult us as your Personal Family Lawyer® to determine the steps necessary to ensure excellent communication and peace of mind when a medical emergency arises. Consider including your young adult children in the process. We’re here to help your family establish the legal and medical protections needed to live your desired lives. Contact us today to schedule your Family Wealth Planning Session for your family and get the right documents in place for your kids.