Best High School Graduation Gifts? A “Safety Net” in the Form of a Power of Attorney and a Health Care Directive

Congratulations! You have successfully navigated childhood and are now ready to send your 18 year-old into the world.  It is an exciting time but are you ready?   You are probably busy with proms, graduation parties and shopping for the new dorm room.   However, when you look at your checklist of things to do, are you missing the most important items?

In order to ensure a smooth transition into adulthood (and reduce stress and anxiety for yourself) it is time for your young adult to execute the legal documents which are crucial to their safety and to your sanity - a power of attorney and a health care directive.

Whether your child will be going off to college or joining the workforce, they are now legal “adults” with all of the privacy rights of adults.  Whether you are ready for this new reality or not, your child is “graduating” into a new legal relationship with you.  You are still their parent but now you are no longer entitled to speak for them nor to have access to their private information unless there is a written document authorizing you.

Without a written power of attorney and health care directive, parents do not have any authority to make health care decisions, access grades or manage money for their adult children. You may be paying tuition, making deposits into their checking account, paying for health insurance and claiming them as dependents, but none of that matters when it comes to accessing information and making decisions unless they have signed a written power of attorney and health care directive authorizing you.

For example, if a young adult develops an illness at college, suffers an injury playing sports or is in a car accident, the medical professionals will not be permitted to disclose any medical information to you, nor can they take any direction from you without a written health care directive.  A health care directive authorizes someone to make medical decisions for another person and gives automatic access to medical records.  If they do not have a written health care directive then - even as their biological parent - your only alternative in medical emergencies or other health related situations would be to seek a Court Order and which could you cost thousands.

Likewise, grades, bank records, credit card bills and other aspects of “adult” life are private for everyone over the age of 18.  Paying tuition does not grant you automatic access to private information.  A power of attorney authorizes someone to conduct business, legal work and banking for another person and provides access to related records and documents.   If you need access to grades, bank records, credit card bills or other private information you will need a written power of attorney.

As you look at your young adult with pride and hope for their incredible future, remember that they still need you.  Before they leave for college or begin their entrance into the workforce, encourage your adult children to make an appointment with a lawyer and execute the documents necessary to manage their new legal status.  This can be an enriching rite of passage for your family, can save you both future heartache and money and will provide adult children with an important safety net as they transition into adulthood.

Whether you are ready for it or not, the time has come -- are you prepared?

If you would like more information about how Davison Eastman & Muñoz, P.A. might assist your family, please do not hesitate to call or contact us.

Author:  Christina Hardman O'Neal