Estate planning for your teen is probably one of the last things you or your teenage kids are thinking about. Given the dire threat coronavirus represents, when they turn 18, it should be their (and your) number-one priority. Here’s why: At 18, they become legal adults in the eyes of the law. You no longer have the legal authority to make decisions regarding their healthcare. Nor will you have access to their financial accounts if something happens to them.
Your young adult could be extremely vulnerable in the event they become incapacitated by COVID-19 or another illness and lose their ability to make their own health and financial decisions. Putting a plan in place could literally save their lives. If your kids are already 18 or about to hit that milestone, it’s crucial that you discuss estate planning for your teen or young adult and have them sign the following documents.
Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney allows your child to grant you (or someone else) the legal authority to make healthcare decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions for themselves. This document would allow you to make decisions about your child’s medical treatment if he or she is in a car accident or is hospitalized.
If your child has a serious illness or injury that requires hospitalization and you need access to their medical records to make decisions about their treatment, you might have to petition the court to become their legal guardian. Physicians normally will talk with the parents or nearest relative, but they might not. While a parent is typically the court’s first choice for guardian, the guardianship process can be both slow and expensive.
When your teen turns 18, no one—even parents—is legally authorized to access his or her medical records without prior written permission. A properly drafted medical power of attorney and HIPAA Authorization will enable you to immediately access their medical records to make informed decisions about their healthcare.
A living will is an advance directive that provides specific guidance about your end of life decisions. You indicate if and when you want life support removed, should it be required. While your teen likely has never thought about these things, it’s important to have these conversations early.
Durable Financial Power of Attorney
If your child become incapacitated, you may also need to help manage their finances. Your child should grant you durable financial power of attorney. If they’re in college, don’t forget to include a FERPA release!
This power of attorney gives you the authority to manage their financial and legal matters, such as paying their tuition, applying for student loans, managing their bank accounts, and collecting government benefits. Without this document, you might have to petition the court for such authority.
Peace of Mind
As parents, it’s normal to experience anxiety as your child leaves home, and with the pandemic still raging, these fears have undoubtedly intensified. While you can’t totally prevent your child from an unforeseen illness or injury, you can at least rest assured that if your child ever does need your help, you’ll have the legal authority to provide it.