Your Rights as the Parent of a Young Adult: What You Need to Know When a Medical Crisis Hits

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As a parent, you are most likely quite accustomed to managing the legal and medical affairs of your children, as circumstances require. If your child requires urgent medical attention while away from you, a simple phone call authorizing care usually can do the trick. But what happens when those “children” turn 18, and are now adults in the eyes of the law and are in need of urgent medical attention far from home?

The simple fact is that the day your child turns 18, he or she becomes an adult, and has the legal rights of an adult. What this means for you is that you lose your prior held rights to make medical and financial decisions for your child, unless your child executes legal documents giving you those rights back. Without the proper legal documents in place, accessing medical information and even being informed about your adult child’s medical condition can be difficult, and in some cases, impossible.

When sending kids off to college, it is important to consider the legal implications an accident or medical emergency might have on your ability to stay informed and participate in important decision making for your young adult child. Medical professionals have a responsibility to follow the privacy laws of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), which ensures medical privacy protection for all adults. Once your child turns 18, he or she is (from a legal perspective) no more attached to you than a stranger, making communication about medical issues tricky if your child is incapacitated and not able to grant permission on his or her own.

In most states, there are three legal documents which can make all the difference when a medical crisis strikes and your young adult child is far from home. When utilized together, they can ensure a parent or trusted adult be kept in the loop about care and treatment when a child over the age of 18 experiences a medical event while they are away at college, traveling, or living far from home. As with most legal documents, the law varies from state to state, so be sure to seek out the counsel of a trusted estate planning attorney to determine which forms suit your situation best.

HIPAA Release

Essentially like a permission slip, this authorization allows your adult child to specify who is allowed access to his or her personal medical information. Specific information can be withheld, such as drug use, sexual activity, and mental health issues so that additional privacy can be protected if desired.

Designation of Health Care Surrogate

Designates an agent to make medical decisions for the young adult. This could be you, as the parent, or another trusted adult. Each state has different laws governing health care directives, thereby requiring different forms. Be sure to check with your attorney to ensure you are following the laws of your state, as well as the state in which your child resides.

Durable Power of Attorney

Names an agent or attorney-in-fact to take care of personal business in the event the adult child is unable to do so. Again, this could be you, as a parent, or another trusted adult. This document allows the attorney-in-fact to take care of such important tasks, such as signing tax returns, paying bills, and accessing bank accounts on behalf of the adult child. A durable power of attorney is indeed powerful and gives broad access to sensitive financial and legal decision making and should only be given to a trusted relative or friend.

Ask a St. Petersburg Estate Planning Attorney for Assistance

The milestones come quickly once children graduate from high school and enter into the big, wide world away from home. However, you can help your child navigate these rites of passage by setting them up with our Millennial Plan. Our Millennial Plan is great for students and young adults who are just starting out in life and want to begin planning for their future. Our Millennial Plan includes a simple last will and testament, durable power of attorney, designation of health care surrogate, a digital estate plan, and more!

For more information regarding our Millennial Plan, call our office in St. Petersburg, Florida, at (727) 537-6818 to speak to one of our experienced Estate Planning Attorneys today!

Estate PlanningKira Doyle