Legal Planning for Young Adults
You may be surprised to learn that when your child turns age 18, they are a legal adult and we as the parent can no longer make medical, residential or financial decisions for them. This presents a challenge especially if a young adult is not mature, exercises poor judgment, is fiscally irresponsible or, becomes incapacitated.
HIPAA, the medical privacy rule, may preclude medical professionals from communicating with anyone (including you the parent) who is not designated in a written legal document by the patient prior to becoming incapacitated. Ask yourself:
- If my child becomes disabled or incapacitated, who will make medical or financial decisions on their behalf?
- Who will medical professionals release information to?
- How do I avoid becoming involved in a guardianship in order to make medical and financial decisions for my adult child if he/she becomes incapacitated?
I strongly recommend that you speak with your adult children as they approach their 18th birthday about creating basic legal planning documents to protect them, their health and their credit.
The FL Dept of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles Traffic Crash Facts 2016 Studies show there were 115,352 car accidents involving drivers between the ages of 18-24.
As parents we are concerned with the safety and well-being of our children and also with knowing how we can make medical and financial decisions for our children if they become incapacitated.
Sadly, we have seen many violent events since the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting on college campuses, night clubs, places of worship, and high schools. But other unforeseeable events such as illness or automobile accidents can occur at any time. After the Virginia Tech incident, many parents were alarmed when they were denied access to information about the medical condition of their child due to the HIPAA Privacy Rule. They were told by the hospital that a college age child was a legal adult and the parent could not access information or, make medical decisions for the child absent written authorization. The HIPAA Privacy Rule imposes a penalty on a health care provider who releases information without the authorization of the patient. More and more health care providers are strictly following the confidentiality requirements of the HIPAA Privacy Rule.
There is a solution: Families can plan ahead to avoid emotional distress and the necessity for a court supervised guardianship proceeding.
The child can execute a ‘Designation of Health Care Surrogate’ and ‘Durable Power of Attorney’ on their 18th birthday. They are legally enforceable documents that identify those persons (i.e. parents) authorized to make medical decisions, make financial decisions and access medical records if the adult child is incapacitated and unable to give informed consent.
A guardianship will result in a loss of privacy (most court proceedings are public records) and is expensive whereas creating a legal plan maintains the confidentiality of your child’s life for a fraction of the cost of a guardianship proceeding. The documents can be changed when the child marries or is independent and responsible enough should he/she want to designate their spouse or domestic partner, or another trusted adult.