When preparing for our daughter, Ellie, to begin her freshman year at Texas A&M, my husband and I thought we were all ready. We attended orientation, scheduled courses, chose the dining plan, purchased numerous dorm room items, opened a new checking account, and checked off all the other preparations on our list. But then I talked to a friend whose older children had been down this same road. Much to my surprise, she alerted me that since Ellie was now 18 years old, I no longer had legal authority over her financial and medical affairs. We needed to have documents in place that would enable my husband and I to make decisions on her behalf if needed. We quickly met with our attorney to draft these documents, giving us that peace of mind as Ellie entered this new, exciting stage of her life.
What every parent should know
Due to privacy laws, your child’s status as an adult presents immediate changes in your legal rights to obtain his or her health, financial, education, or personal records, or to make decisions on his or her behalf. Without documents and tools in place that name you or another trusted family member or friend to act as an agent on his or her behalf, you may experience a delay or inability to access critical information. This can result in frustration, wasted time and unnecessary expenses in an already emotionally charged or troubling situation.
Documents young adults should have
To avoid unexpected roadblocks, your adult child can take a proactive approach and name a trusted adult to act as an agent on his or her behalf in a variety of matters and circumstances. An estate planning attorney can help to assemble and maintain a basic set of estate planning documents, such as:
- HIPAA release allows medical information to be released to an agent
- Health care power of attorney allows an agent to make medical decisions
- Living will provides instructions about medical treatment to be administered (or avoided) when an individual is deemed permanently incapacitated or terminally ill
- Durable power of attorney allows an agent to make nonmedical decisions (legal or financial)
- Basic will provides instructions for the disposal of assets after death
Once your child has these documents in place, encourage him or her to revisit them and update them during different life stages.
Start the discussion now
It’s never too early to have this conversation with your child. Learn about his or her wishes and share your own estate plans.