22 Apr Estate Planning for Young Adults
Does my Graduate need Estate Planning Documents?
Joy EckelkampSenior Counsel
As graduation season approaches, parents of young adult children are often focused on prom, graduation parties, and getting ready to send our children off to college or the work force. Most parents are busy with the tasks to ready our children for their post-graduation future. But do our children need more than dorm fridges, college text books and parking passes? What other tasks should be tackled before our young adult children leave the nest?
As a parent, you are used to being able to contact your child’s healthcare provider and freely communicate with them. However, the legal age of majority in Texas is 18. That means the law considers our children legal adults. What does that mean for you as a parent? What happens after our children become legal adults, and according to the law they are able to make their own medical decisions?
Consider this, your college student is involved in a car accident and is taken to the hospital unconscious. Or perhaps, your young adult child moves away and is injured on the job and suffers a head injury. Like most of us, your first thought is to reach out and contact the medical provider, step-in and assist as you always have. Unfortunately, this cannot happen. As a legal adult, your child’s healthcare providers cannot disclose your child’s information without their consent. What if your child can no longer medically consent? Who can make medical decisions in such a situation? You may be caught in a legal bind trying to help your child as you always have but are being denied access to information or being denied the ability to make medical decisions for a child that can no longer make them on their own.
Further, what do you do if your injured child’s rent or bills are going unpaid? What is a parent to do in such a horrifying situation? How do you protect your young adult child in the event of an emergency? Such situations are easily avoidable if your child executes a HIPAA release, a medical power of attorney, and a financial power of attorney. In today’s society, most people do not even consider preparing estate planning documents until they have well passed through this phase of life. However, estate planning documents can be vital to a young adult.
A HIPAA release allows a medical provider to share your child’s confidential health care information. So, even if your child is alert and able to make their own medical decisions, you as the appointee can call and get valuable updates on their condition, review medical tests, and help your child make important medical decisions in a crisis situation. This document can be limited in the event there may be some aspect of your child’s healthcare they consider private, and they do not wish you to know about. The HIPAA release will allow medical providers to share important information with you during a time when such information may be most needed.
The medical power of attorney grants the agent the legal authority to make healthcare decisions should your child be unable to make them due to incapacity. This has the added effect of avoiding the necessity of obtaining guardianship over your young adult child to be able to make decisions if they are legally unable to make them on their own behalf.
Lastly, a financial power of attorney will allow your child’s agent to conduct their financial affairs while they are not able to do so themselves. If your child does not want you to step in and assist them unless they are incapacitated, a financial power of attorney can be made ‘springing.’
Failure to have the appropriate powers of attorney and legal documents in place would mean that you would have to seek a guardianship in court. This is a lengthy and often expensive process. However, such a situation is easily avoidable with a very small amount of effort. As your young adult children ready themselves to flee the nest, you should consider arranging for your child to consult with an estate planning attorney to get these valuable documents. The Estate Planning Team at Rapp and Krock is here to assist, and we have your best interests in mind. We invite you to reach out to us to schedule a consultation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joy M. Eckelkamp is Senior Counsel at Rapp & Krock, PC in the Probate, Estates, Elder Law, and Trusts group.
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