What you don’t know can hurt you or rather, hurt your children. Many of my clients have children that recently graduated from high school and are now getting ready to send their children off to college.
There are some things that you need to know once your child reaches the age of 18 that may not be at the forefront of your mind. Some of those things are (1) that you no longer have access to their medical records, (2) you no longer have carte blanche authority to make medical decisions for them or (3) in some cases to know what their grades are in school.
Generally, there are several simple yet important documents that every 18-year-old should have as part of their estate plan. I know you’re thinking… “My child doesn’t have an estate.” Be that as it may, having the right incapacity documents on board is considered estate planning.
The first document that every 18-year-old should have on board is a Durable Power of Attorney for finances. This document allows the designated agent to make financial decisions and manage accounts, among other things financial in nature, should an incapacity strike or it can be made effective immediately in the event a child is studying abroad. Sometimes parents need to sign financial documents for a child when their child is in another country or even sometimes in another state. We recommend two different types of power of attorney.
The second document is what we call a California Statutory Power of Attorney. This is the document that most banks and financial institutions are familiar with and therefore we recommend it. However, it doesn’t cover the universe of things that could or might happen, so we typically recommend augmenting that with a second documents, an expanded Durable Power of Attorney that is custom drafted.
The third document that is critical to have as part of your child’s estate plan is the HIPAA Authorization for Release of Information. A properly drafted global HIPAA allows the nominated parties to receive medical information about the condition of the person who has signed the release. If your child is injured and taken to the hospital, the hospital is technically not supposed to release information about their condition or even that they’re at the hospital to anyone. But if your child executes this release, you can fax this to the hospital or present it in person and they will be able to release information to you.
The last document that is critical for every young adult is the California Advance Health Care Directive. This is the document that allows a nominated agent to make medical decisions for the person signing the document in the event they do not have the capacity to do so. Some of the other things that the Advance Health Care Directive can do is let the person signing the document elect the choice to prolong life or the choice not to prolong life as well as whether or not they would like to be an organ donor.