The time is fast approaching when many young adults leave the nest and head for college. But, just as the famous American Express commercial cautions consumers not to “leave home without it”, referring to a credit card, at Geyer & Associates we caution students not to leave home without first putting two important estate planning documents in place.
- Durable power of attorney
This document relates to finances and property, and empowers the “agent” to access the child’s bank accounts and financial records, pay rent, utilities, and credit card bills, and manage loans and investments. If a child were to become even temporarily disabled, without this document, parents might need court approval to act on the child’s behalf.
- Healthcare proxy
The formal name for this document is Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare. The language should stipulate that HIPAA-protected private medical information can be released to the “agent”. Without this document, parents don’t have the authority to make health care decisions for the young adult; doctors might even refuse to discuss their son or daughter’s condition with parents due to privacy laws.
“Accidents happen, and it’s important to realize that when they do, having the proper paperwork in place can greatly improve a parent’s or loved one’s ability to help,” says the Virtual Attorney, reminding readers that, upon reaching the age of 18, an individual is an adult in the eyes of the law, and a parent’s rights in controlling some affairs of that child become significantly diminished.
While these terrible situations are difficult for any parent to contemplate, it’s vital to be prepared. In the event a child is not only hospitalized, but unable to determine his own course of treatment, medical professionals’ hands will be tied without the intervention of the court. Meanwhile, the financial repercussions of failing to keep the bills paid can result in bad credit and even collections.
At Geyer & Associates, our estate planning attorneys tell parents: Graduation is a time to celebrate, to congratulate your son or daughter – and yourselves! Graduation is also a time to put the proper estate planning documents in place!
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