Summer can be a fun and relaxing time, but for those heading off to college for the first time, there is much planning to be done. Dorm room essentials, possibly a new, more mature wardrobe, a car, registering for classes, vaccinations, & more can keep a new freshman and their parents quite busy. What is often missed during this busy time? Estate Planning! Surprised? Many are. Let’s take a look at a bit of the reality of adulthood.
In both Kansas & Missouri, the age of majority is 18. That means that once an individual turns the age of 18, he/she/they are considered a legal adult. As a result, when your child turns 18, parents no longer have the legal authority to make decisions for him or her, including financial and health care decisions.
Why is this a potential problem?
If your child gets sick or is in an accident and ends up being hospitalized, due to privacy laws known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), you would not have any rights to get any information from the hospital regarding your child’s condition, nor would you have the ability to access his or her medical records or intercede on your child’s behalf regarding his or her medical treatment and care. Further, if your child is unable to communicate with his or her doctors, in order for you to be able to intercede on your child’s behalf, you would have to petition the probate court to be appointed your child’s guardian. This is bad enough if your child is still living at home; it can become a nightmare if your child is attending college away from home.
In this regard, estate planning and some of its related legal documents should be considered and signed at the onset of adulthood which for many is before they head off to college or upon high school graduation.
The following legal documents should be considered:
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care: You can have your child sign a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, naming you as your child’s agent. As agent, you will have the authority to make personal and medical care decisions for your child if he or she suffers a disability, rendering him or her unable to act.
HIPAA Authorization: Because a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care does not take effect until your child is unable to make his or her own health care decisions, you should also have your child sign a HIPAA Authorization which permits you to discuss your child’s medical condition with his or her doctors and obtain your child’s medical records and medical information regardless of whether your child is incapacitated. In other words, you will be allowed to participate in your child’s health care even if he or she isn’t incapacitated.
In addition to a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and a HIPAA Authorization, you should also have your child sign a Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Matters, naming you as your child’s agent so that you can manage your child’s financial affairs, including but not limited to banking and bill paying, if your child is sick or injured, or is unable to act for any reason. (Note: Both the Healthcare & Financial DPOA goes into and stays in effect if your child does not have the ability to speak or make decisions on their own.)
Many of these legal documents can be found online and require the assistance of a notary. For additional help and guidance, contact an estate planning attorney.