As I watch my seventeen-year old daughter write her college application essay, I cannot help but draft this to my clients and colleagues. With college just around the corner for many of your children, you have undoubtedly created a very lengthy ‘to-do’ list, including shopping, packing and laundry. My guess is that creating and signing estate planning documents does not top (or even make) your list. However, before sending your child off, it is critical to consider several necessary legal documents for your child, which are all too-often overlooked.
In most states, like it or not, an 18-year old college student is considered a legal adult. That means that, as a parent, your legal right to make important decisions about your child’s health and finances is no longer automatic. Accordingly, it is imperative that you establish your legal ability to make these decisions before the unexpected requires it and it is too late. Before your child departs for college and embarks on the next stage of his or her life, a health care proxy, power of attorney and HIPAA authorization, at a minimum, should be created and executed.
1. Health Care Proxy
The Health Care Proxy will allow your adult child to appoint you as his or her agent to make health care decisions on his or her behalf, in the event that your child is unable to do so. In the event of your child’s incapacity or incompetence, as health care agent, you would be authorized to make any decisions regarding your child’s treatment.
2. Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney allows your child to appoint you as agent to handle his or her financial affairs, including paying bills, making deposits or withdrawals, opening or closing accounts, filing tax returns and renewing a lease.
A Power of Attorney is particularly important in the event of a child’s incapacity or incompetence, as it may avoid the costly and complicated Guardianship procedure which is otherwise required when an individual becomes incapacitated for any reason, including accident or disease. In addition, it can prevent any difficulties involved with the management of your child’s financial affairs while a Guardianship proceeding is pending and before a Guardian has been appointed by the court.
3. HIPAA Authorization
This form enables your child to grant written permission to his or her health care providers to share medical information with you, as your child’s health care agent.
To simplify and streamline the process, please contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to create these simple, yet critically important documents, which will offer peace of mind and protection at minimal cost. I will reply to your email with a few questions that need to be answered in order to draft the documents, as well as a statement of fees. Thank you.