College-age children have very specific needs. It is so common for families to concentrate on dorm necessities and where to park a car, or if the child is going to even have a car, that it becomes too easy to overlook very important needs, such as an Estate Plan.
June brings beautiful moments and that baby is now a young adult who in just a few weeks is heading out to college. It is very likely that this child, who still feels too young, is going to be out there on his or her own. Some will stay home and go to a near-by college or university. The time is exciting, nerve wracking, amazingly full of emotions and, of course, some very important details are completely overlooked.
Once children turn 18, in the state of Florida, they are considered adults. At this time, parents can no longer make legal or medical decisions for their children. Parents are not even allowed to see the medical records of their own children once they reach legal adulthood. Thus, comes the necessity of putting in place the right protections.
College-age children shall have basic estate planning put in place. Estate Planning is not only about planning to pass down wealth upon death or to manage wealth. In fact, most college-age children have very little of an Estate to plan in terms of money. Thus, planning is also and very importantly, about creating the protections necessary for one’s life time. Determining who will make that child’s medical decisions and who will have access to medical records is of utmost importance. Here is a scenario:
Johnny graduated with honors from high school and his parents are very proud of his achievement. He obtained a full scholarship for his first-choice university. Johnny feels it is time to live on campus. He is already 18 and he wants to have the whole university experience. His parents, Jane and John, help him pay for his room and board. Johnny has a part time to pay for his car insurance and miscellaneous expenses.
Two months into classes, Johnny goes hiking with his new two best friends. They are having a great time until Johnny trips and falls hitting his head. Johnny is taken to the nearest hospital for treatment. Johnny parents are notified immediately. Once at the hospital, the doctors tell Jane and John that Johnny needs immediate surgery. Jane agrees but John does not. John feels it is too risky. The doctor asks for medical authorizations from both and none has one. The doctor also needs to know if Johnny ever took specific medications in the last two months before he can proceed with specific treatment. Jane and John have no access to Johnny’s medical records.
There is always another legal way: Jane and John can go through an emergency guardianship proceeding and a judge must provide orders authorizing Jane and John or one of them to have access to the medical records. The biggest concern is that Jane and John are not in agreement as to the treatment that should follow. Their dispute may cause a delay in the judge’s decision as to who will be the guardian of Johnny for medical decisions. We are not mentioning the fact that these proceedings may cost thousands of dollars, specially when there is disagreement as to the appointment of a guardian.
On the other hand, if Johnny had prepared medical powers of attorney and HIPAA authorizations, a decision could have been made rapidly and medical records could have been requested expeditiously decreasing the risk of other injuries to Johnny.
It is especially important to provide parents or a trusted adult with access to one’s medical records and authority to medical decision-making as soon as reaching legal adulthood.
It is easy for children to feel grown-up and adult once the magic age comes around. However, as with everything else in life, the age of majority also comes with a price tag. Adulthood brings responsibilities, independence and more legal components.
Many parents think that because they continue to provide at least part of the child’s support or all of it and pay tuition or have the young adult continue to live under the parents’ roof, that they continue to have legal authority over medical and legal decisions for the children. The truth is that at eighteen, the individual is considered an adult who can govern his or her own life with the legal right to privacy.
We strongly encourage our clients with children who have already reached the age of majority to prepare and have in place medical directives, HIPPA releases, and any other necessary documentation to make sure the parents can still protect them in the event of an accident, temporary or long-term incapacity.
It is equally important that when these young adults leave to attend a college or university away from home, they have provided those close to them with instructions and directions or who to call and where to obtain important information about their medical necessities.
Remember that Estate Planning is not just about money, it is about you, your family and your rounded well-being.
Some of the documents to be drafted:
Health Care Power of Attorney (also known as Health Care Directive): Through this document the individual may appoint a parent or a relative or trusted friend to serve as their health care power of attorney. This person can make medical decisions in the event the individual is unable to. It is recommend that both the person holding health care power of attorney and the individual’s doctor holds a copy of the document.
HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 protects patient privacy. This gives medical practitioners permission to share information with those named on the form. This way allowing access to medical records or information as necessary.
Power of Attorney: A financial power of attorney is also a very important document. This document authorizes a person, usually a parent, to make legal decisions on behalf of the child. It is usually recommended to have a Durable Power of Attorney that gives the authorized person access to financial accounts at any time, rather than only upon incapacity (as would be the case of a “springing” power of attorney. With such document, a parent could pay the child’s bills, replace a lost or stolen debit or credit card, speak to child’s landlord or any other on behalf of the child upon an incapacity or just because the child is away for college. This document should be updated every few years to make sure it is up to date and because some financial institutions may not accept an outdated one.
Have peace of mind knowing you will be able to be there for your children even when they have already reached legal adulthood. Contact us if you have any questions either be clicking here or by dialing 305-456-7158 and we will schedule a Family Review Session to assess your family’s needs.
Yahima Suarez, PA