Your child just became an adult, it’s now time to introduce them to the world of estate planning. Yes, you heard me right, below are the 3 legal documents every adult should have.
Before you start thinking I’ve lost my mind, let me explain. Your child turning 18 means they are now a legal adult. As such, your ability as a parent to talk to medical providers, banks, financial institutions, and more, greatly diminishes. By law, these young men and women are adults and will be regarded as such by government agencies, medical staff, and the general public.
As such, when you introduce them to the world, send them with the 3 legal documents every adult should have.
Medical Power of Attorney’s and Healthcare Directives
Now that your child is 18 and heading off to college, joining the workforce, or just chilling in your basement, they now make all major medical decisions for themselves. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. In fact, it is a beautiful thing and hopefully they still turn to you for advice.
However, what happens if they are involved in an accident and can no longer make these decisions for themselves? Generally speaking, the next of kin may have some authority to make decisions. But, how does the hospital know who to listen to? What if mom and dad disagree? What if the medical providers make the decisions?
A Medical Power of Attorney allows your child to appoint someone to make these decisions on their behalf. Generally speaking, it is usually best to appoint a primary agent (perhaps mom, or dad) to make these decisions. This avoids a potential conflict between two agents and it gives the medical staff clear direction on who they should be speaking with.
Similar, yet different, the Medical Directive allows your child to make certain decisions about their medical care, prior to becoming incapacitated. Many young adults will choose to skip filling this document out, since it may be preferential to allow someone else to make emergency medical decisions.
HIPAA Authorization Form
HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) protects a patient’s medical information from disclosure to third-parties. Now that your child is an adult, this law forbids medical staff from disclosing their health information to you. In fact, the medical community can face significant fines and penalties for violating these laws. Yes, even if you are paying for their insurance.
The HIPAA Authorization Form allows your son or daughter to designate one or more ‘authorized persons’ to speak with doctors, review records, and get updates about their medical conditions. While there is certainly an opportunity for snooping, this authorization form will permit your child to appoint someone to not only receive medical information, but to also challenge medical charges and billing.
Durable Financial Power of Attorney
Powers of Attorney can be very broad or narrow in scope. They can also be effective immediately, or only upon incapacity (known as a “springing” power). The Durable Financial Power of Attorney (“DFPOA”), allows your child to appoint an agent to handle their financial affairs.
At a minimum, we typically recommend every adult have a springing DFPOA. The DFPOA agent can step in and handle the financial affairs for someone otherwise incapacitated by illness or injury. By appointing a DFPOA agent, your agent can pay bills, talk to creditors, file taxes, and much, much, more.
On the other hand, an immediate DFPOA may be advisable in some circumstances. This document will appoint an agent, again typically mom or dad, who can speak with college aid departments, banks, landlords, and more, effective immediately. Without it, most of these institutions will only speak with your child, making it difficult for you to help them protect themselves.
These three documents can make sending your newly minted adult child off into the world a lot less scary. We recommend contacting your attorney soon after a child turns 18 to prepare these documents. If you absolutely fear attorneys, there are a couple of options (that we do not recommend), for you:
- There are self-help legal document preparation companies out there that can produce basic documents for about $100.00 – $200.00 (maybe less). Most of these companies walk you through basic questions and auto-draft documents. Wrong answers can, and likely will, hurt your intentions. These companies are also the first to tell you, they are not giving legal advice. As an attorney, I have had many clients harmed from using self-help document preparers, so beware!
- You can complete your own Healthcare Power of Attorney in Missouri by visiting the Missouri Bar’s Public Page (here). This form is similar to the one we use in our office, you need to make sure you understand the choices you are making when you complete it. It is no substitute for legal advice. However, in a pinch, and with care, it may be better than nothing.
We never recommend someone resort to self-help when it comes to legal matters. There are too many opportunities for “clicking” on the wrong option and completely undermining your intent. However, because these documents are so important, we wanted to at least mention other ways to find and create them.
As an alternative option, we are excited to introduce our new POA packages. Both POA Packages include a Healthcare Power of Attorney/Healthcare Directive, HIPAA Authorization Form, and a Financial Power of Attorney.
- $200.00 POA Package: 30-minute telephone consult, email documents to client with instructions on how to complete them.
- $300.00 POA Package: 30-minute telephone consult and 30-minute in-office visit to complete the documents with an attorney.
Contact us if you would like to learn more about our POA Packages or other Estate Planning Programs.