Your child is always your child, except in the eyes of the law where an 18 year old is considered to be legal adults. However, as many parents know, at this age, or even beyond, many children are still not ready to be on their own and may need your input or assistance in major life decisions or managing finances. Even though they may be off to college, or entering military service, and you still may be paying their way, you may not have any say in their affairs should something happen and they need your help.
At age 18, children are also deemed emancipated for HIPAA purposes. This means that their privacy is protected under the law—even from their parents—unless they have a medical directive or medical power of attorney in place.
If an unfortunate circumstance should occur, as for example, your child was injured in campus violence incident or had a serious car accident, you, as parents, would have no access to health-related records, or would not be able to make decisions on their behalf if needed, unlike when they were minor children. With the increase of gun violence on campuses and distracted driving, pre-determining a plan might just help put your mind to rest, and offer protection for all parties.
Every 18-year-old needs these two essential documents
That is why we at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor P.L.L.C. highly recommend creating two essential estate planning documents: a durable general power of attorney (for financial matters) and a durable medical power of attorney (for health-related matters). Encourage your child to put one in place after they turn 18, so they can ensure that you will be able to make decisions as to your child’s finances and health care in the event they are unable to do so themselves. Doing so will avoid the greater expense, stress and delay, if they are not in place, of seeking those rights for your child through a guardianship or conservatorship proceeding in the courts. Even though you most often hear about these two documents for older people, they should be considered for younger folks as well.
A financial power of attorney can be customized to your child’s needs, general (covering all financial matters) or specific (relating to just one aspect of the adult child’s finances). Your child can appoint these responsibilities as well to different family members or trusted advisors as alternates or successors to you.
A power of attorney can be useful in other ways too, such as if your child is traveling abroad and requires money wired from the adult child’s bank account, or needs to have legal documents like a lease signed in the child’s absence. The small fee you pay to set up proper powers of attorney will be well worth it in the end.
Contact your estate planning attorney
At the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C., we are specialists in estate planning and can help you protect your family members. Please call to set an appointment at our convenient Northern Virginia office with either Patricia Tichenor or Camellia Safi, attorneys at law.