Many young adults, especially those entering college or settling into their first full-time job, often have a feeling of invincibility. The stark reality is that anyone can become seriously ill, be involved in a car accident, or be a victim of a random act of violence. In most states, an 18-year-old is no longer a minor in the eyes of the law, and are legally considered an adult, which comes with certain privacy rights. Alabama is one of the few exceptions to the age of majority, age 19, and Mississippi, age 21.
Without the appropriate Estate Planning documents in place, parents of an 18-year-old no longer have the right to make decisions or take actions on their behalf. If something were to happen without these documents in place, one might have to file a court petition to be named a legal guardian for their child. This court process can be time-consuming, expensive, and emotionally draining.
For these reasons and others, it is prudent to schedule an appointment with an Estate Planning attorney as soon as your child reaches the age of majority. Documents to consider for this group may include: A Durable Power of Attorney, a Living Will, and a HIPAA authorization.
A Durable Power of Attorney allows the young adult to appoint a person to handle certain matters on their behalf, such as healthcare and financial decisions. Creating a Power of Attorney and making it “durable” allows it to remain in effect if they become incapacitated or unable to speak for themselves. A Durable POA could include further directions for their financial assets by appointing a person legal authority to make decisions on their behalf without court interference. Examples of financial assets could be access to bank accounts, scholarships from college, or rental agreements. A Durable POA for healthcare appoints someone as their agent to communicate with healthcare professionals to make certain medical decisions. These are especially useful if they were to become unconscious or unable to speak for themselves. The Durable POAs do differ from a Living Will or Advance Directive for Healthcare as these are used to make known what your life-prolonging medical treatments should be and for how long they should last. For example, whether they want to be resuscitated or kept on life support would be detailed out in a Living Will. A HIPAA authorization form is like a permission slip and allows them to designate specific individuals to whom healthcare providers can disclose their private health information. Many may remain on their parents health insurance plans until age 26, so without a HIPAA authorization form, parents are unlikely able to access any information regarding their medical records.
For Parents, there is no time like the present to plan for the future. Consider scheduling an appointment with an Estate Planning attorney when your child turns eighteen. At Bridgeworth Wealth Management, we recognize the value in a strong partnership, and we work hand in hand with you and your Estate Planning attorney to help ensure strong estate plans are in place for everyone in your family. While no one ever expects to use these documents, having them in place can help you on the path to peace of mind.