It may seem morbid to prepare or assemble estate planning and health care documents for healthy young people, or in anticipation of traveling for a vacation, but accidents and illnesses happen, and for young adults about to leave home, it is especially important that they have appropriate planning documents once they reach the age of 18, because parents will then no longer have access to or control over their children’s health care information, decisions, or finances.
There are two essential planning documents that everyone should have digital copies of on their phone or tablet when they travel, and make sure that their 18-year-old children sign to insure that proper measures can be taken in the event of an emergency: a Health Care Proxy, and a Durable Power of Attorney.
When your children turn 18, you no longer have the authority to talk to their doctors or make healthcare decisions for them. This is true even if they are still covered by your health insurance and you are paying the bill. That means if your child has an accident or illness and is disabled, you may need court approval just to access their bills, accounts, or act on their behalf to even be informed of their medical status.
- Healthcare Proxy, (also referred to as a medical power of attorney): A healthcare proxy appoints another person to make your health care decisions for you and authorizes them to discuss all aspects of your health care with your doctor in the event that you are unable to communicate. If there is an emergency with you, your spouse, or an over 18-year-old child, someone needs to have the legal authority to access health care records, discuss them with health care providers, and make important health care decisions.
- Durable Power of Attorney (POA): A Durable POA enables a designated agent to access bills, accounts, sign financial documents, and make financial decisions. The POA enables the designated agent to sign tax returns, pay bills, access bank accounts, life insurance policies, and figure out college tuition issues.
Despite the fact that you may be paying for their education, you no longer have access to your child’s college financial or academic records once they turn 18. You can call the registrar and ask to see your 18-year-old’s transcript, or campus tuition, room, and board invoices, but they will not share it with you even though you’re the one paying the bills unless you have a Power of Attorney on file.
Michael D. Weinstein has been practicing all aspects of family law in Westchester County and the surrounding areas for over 30 years. He specializes in wills, trusts, probate, separation, and divorce. His office is located at 150 White Plains Road, Suite 404, Tarrytown, NY 10591, and he can be reached at 914-332-8824, firstname.lastname@example.org, or check his website.