Imagine that your daughter is away at college and she suffers serious injuries after a freak accident on campus. She is in the hospital and unable to respond, physically or verbally. But, rest assured, you will be privy to all the information doctors have on your daughter, because you’re her parent. You’re family. That’s the way this works, right?
Much to the surprise of many, this is not how this works. Once your son or daughter is 18 years old, they are officially considered an adult (in most states). As an adult, they are entitled to their own lives and their own privacy — and that means that if they have not assigned their parents as their healthcare proxy or if they have not assigned them as eligible recipients of critical medical information, then their parents are out of luck.
Though this isn’t the only reason that an 18-year-old should consider some basic estate planning documentation, it certainly is an important one. Even though they are very young adults, young people who are heading off to college need to approach some estate planning professionals to ensure that their well-being — and their family — is looked after.
Particular to the hypothetical situation presented in this post; designating a parent as a healthcare proxy, or signing a release form from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 that says your parents can obtain medical information about you, is important.
In addition, a young person can grant his or her parents general financial power of attorney, which gives them the ability to help out with critical bills that the young person may not be able to pay or deal with.
Source: Wall Street Journal, “Why Your College-Age Children Need an Estate Plan,” Anne Tergesen, Sept. 21, 2013
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