"Documents You Need When a Child Turns 18" is a recent article by the Wall Street Journal, and it reinforced a belief Bergstrom Attorneys has embraced: estate planning is relevant to everyone, regardless of age, health, or wealth. The fact is, an 18-year-old is no longer a child, and in many respects parents lose their rights in decisions or information concerning their adult child, whether it relates to an emergency or report cards.
In summary, the article recommended the following for parents of 18-year-olds:
- Health-Care Power of Attorney: also known as an Advance Medical Directive, this legal instrument allows an agent to make health care decisions for a principal who cannot make his or her own decisions due to physical or mental illness; an adult child would thereby appoint his or her parents to help in a medical emergency. If you are the parent of an out-of-state college student, one Health-Care Power of Attorney should be drafted based on the state law where the child studies, and another based on your home state's law.
- HIPAA Authorization: HIPAA regulations prohibit disclosure of medical records, and would therefore deny parents' access to such information for their 18+ child. Parents should obtain a blanket HIPAA authorization from their adult child if they want the possibility to become apprised of their adult child's health.
- Financial Power of Attorney: also known as Durable Power of Attorney, this documents appoints the adult child's agent to handle financial matters. This could be a crucial requirement if your 18-year-old has a medical emergency and can no longer manage his or her own financial affairs.
- Education Record Release: Because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, parents have no right to see their adult child's report card, unless the child signs an Education Record Release giving parents access to report cards, transcripts, and financial information at their academic institution, including universities. Under FERPA, your 18-year-old may waive their FERPA rights to allow their parents access to such academic records.
Typically parents contact us to request powers of attorney as part of their own estate plans. We consider it our job as their lawyer to advise them of often overlooked legal issues, including estate planning services tailored for their 18+ year-old dependent child. It's common for our clients to respond by saying their child is young and healthy, but they soon appreciate how estate planning is contingency planning to prepare for the unexpected, including those cases when a child, who might legally be an adult, still needs to count on mom or dad in an emergency. It would be tragic if parents were denied the possibility of helping their child because they lacked the legal documents described in this informative article.
Contact Bergstrom Attorneys to discuss your need for an estate plan for each member of your family.