Whew – Your Kid is Finally Going to College – But Did You Remember to Do This?

By November 22, 2017Estate Planning

By Debra K. Schuster

18 is that magic number – once your child turns 18, they are an adult. Yes, even if you consider them children they are now adults, even if you pay EVERYTHING for them.

Whether you go to college, begin work, go to a trade school, or just sit at home, you need a Durable Power of Attorney so if something happens to you and you cannot make health care or financial decisions for yourself (yes, again, even if rely on your parents to pay for the shirt on your back, the decision is now yours), you have appointed someone in writing who can.

“Why are these needed now?” you and your 18-year-old adult ask – they are healthy, young and don’t own anything.

Well, once someone turns 18, doctors, hospitals, nurses, pharmacies, and other health care providers will not speak to a parent unless their child has appointed them as decision-maker under a Durable Power of Attorney for Heath Care. This also occurs with financial institutions, health insurance companies, and any company your child receives services from.

Equally important are your child’s end-of-life treatment wishes (which they have likely not even thought about). The famous Nancy Cruzan case that started the focus on Living Wills involved a 23-year-old woman who had an accidental overdose and went into a coma. She had no written instructions to guide her family and doctors and she remained on artificial life support for years. In response to this case, states enacted Durable Power of Attorney and Living Will laws to enable people to put their treatment wishes in writing.

In addition, a HIPAA authorization will enable an adult, even a newly come-of-age adult, to allow whomever they choose to talk to their health care provider, even if that adult makes their own decisions.  This document is useful in many ways.  For instance, when you want to share information with the doctor that your child has not revealed to the doctor you would need an authorization to speak with the doctor.

Finally, even though your newly come-of-age adult child may own nothing, they need a Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Matters to enable you (or whomever they choose) to speak with their health insurance company, cell phone providers, landlord, etc. If you are paying for goods and services, you may need to talk to those providers. An estate planning attorney can assist you in this process.

The Missouri Bar has a free, downloadable Health Care Directive with simple instructions for its completion.

This could get someone started if they want to do this themselves, but because other forms are not available, we recommend your adult child  see an attorney (a parent can initially attend, but the attorney will need to meet with out you being present).  Keep the original signed and notarized document so it does not get lost), and have your child give copies to all of their health care providers – for example at school, the student health services.

Since there is no similar free form for the Financial Durable Power of Attorney, your child will need to see a lawyer to have that document prepared. It is a simple process and is well worth it.

Final reminders:

  • These documents can and should be changed as your child’s situation changes.
  • These documents belong to the child and they have the power to change them without your approval.
  • These documents are valid in all 50 states, as long as they comply with Missouri law.

Oh, by the way, if you have not created these documents as an adult of any age, it’s time you set a good example and do so.

The attorneys at Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal, P.C. can assist with the preparation of these and other types of estate planning documents. Call for an appointment now.

Disclaimer

Debra Schuster

Debra Schuster

Elder law attorney Debra K. Schuster focuses on representing the elderly and connecting the elderly and their families with social workers, geriatric and care managers, financial planners, and others who help with elder care issues. In addition, Ms. Schuster facilitates conversations about elder law issues for families faced with making difficult decisions for their loved ones.