With the Coronavirus affecting everyone’s lives and most schools and colleges closed, many of you may have adult children at home for the remainder of the school year. This is an important time to address an often overlooked issue in family incapacity planning.
As most of you know, in most states a child reaches adulthood at age 18, and at that point their parents no longer have automatic rights concerning that child. This relates to making financial or medical decisions on their behalf due to incapacity through illness or accidents.
Similarly, under the HIPAA law, once a child reaches 18, the parents are not allowed to automatically receive medical information about their child or make informed decisions for the child. This applies even if the child is unconscious and unable to communicate, and whether or not the child is living at home and/or is financially dependent upon you.
Sometimes in these situations, a physician will identify a parent as a health care advocate or proxy who has emergency authority to make decisions on behalf of an adult child. But identifying a parent may not be as easy in blended families where divorced parents and step-parents may not agree on a medical course of action, and this may happen when time is of the essence and every second counts. These same rules hold true for dealing with financial and legal decisions on behalf of your child.
Fortunately, it is relatively easy to solve these problems with appropriate estate planning documents. We can prepare a financial power of attorney, as well as a designation of health care surrogate and a HIPAA authorization form for your children so that in the unfortunate event something were to happen to them and you needed to become involved right away, you would have legal authority to do so.
If you have children who are still under age 18, the parents are their legal guardians and can make decisions on their behalf. However, if you are not available for some reason, such as if you yourself are incapacitated, in the hospital, or out of town, it is important for you to provide consent for someone else to take care of the children. For this purpose, we can prepare a parental consent for medical treatment form, as well as a temporary guardianship form which would allow a family member or other trusted individual to handle your children’s medical emergencies if you were not available.
If you are interested in having any of those documents prepared for your children, please feel free to contact us. Now might be a good time to get that done if your children are home.
If you have any questions, please let me know. We are here to support you and hope that you stay safe during this challenging time!