By: Randall A. Denha, J.D., LL.M.*
Turning 18 changes everything – except the fact that many of our teens are still largely dependent on us – so what can we do to ensure our continued ability to look out for them? It may seem morbid to prepare health care documents for healthy young people, but accidents and illnesses happen to young adults, and don’t you want to be the one making decisions for your kids once they leave home? This is especially important when our young ones leave for college.
Q: Why do young adults need Financial Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives?
A: At age 18, your child is legally an adult. Because of increasingly protective privacy rules, without these documents in place parents can’t access their adult child’s medical or financial information, or be involved with making medical decisions about their child. Try calling their college and asking questions about your child if you doubt this.
For example, if your child goes to school out of state or even in state and you receive a call that they have been involved in an accident, medical staff very likely will not speak to you about your child’s condition until you present a medical power of attorney.
Also, health care providers may not consult you about your child’s care if your child does not have a healthcare directive in place.
Q: What issues do a Financial Power of Attorney and Health Care Directive cover?
A: A Financial Power of Attorney should address who your child wishes to manage his or her finances, if something were to happen.
It should allow access to your child’s educational records and information, so that in an emergency, you can speak to the school; very helpful if your child is studying abroad. Also, a Health Care Directive will allow your adult child to designate who he or she would like to act on their behalf in a medical emergency, if they are unable to make their own decisions
Q: Are these documents easy to prepare? Can a parent find them online and fill them out themselves?
A: Yes, parents can find the documents online and prepare on their own.
However, I caution against doing that simply because it would be very easy to use documents that are not compliant with the law, or that don’t cover all of the necessary issues. Be cautious.
Q: What do you suggest parents do?
A: When your child turns 18, make arrangements to have him/her execute a Financial Power of Attorney and Health Care Directive.
Before your child leaves for school, schedule a meeting with an estate planning attorney. Remember, the child is the client, not the parents, even if they are paying the bill, so the child must be present to understand and execute the documents.
Once the documents are executed, put them in a safe place and upload the documents to your phone so you can access and send quickly if needed.
*Randall A. Denha, J.D., LL.M.., principal and founder of the law firm of Denha & Associates, PLLC with offices in Birmingham, MI and West Bloomfield, MI. Mr. Denha continues to be recognized as a “Super Lawyer” by Michigan Super Lawyers in the areas of Trusts and Estates Law; a “Top Lawyer” by D Business Magazine in the areas of Estate Planning and Tax Law; a Five Star Wealth Planning Professional and a New York Times Top Attorney in Michigan. Mr. Denha can be reached at 248-265-4100 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org