Have You Completed Your Back-to-School Estate Planning Homework?

As we’re preparing for a new school year on the North Shore of Massachusetts many of us are already overwhelmed with checklists, school supply lists, and homework assignments. But have you considered the important estate planning homework that’s often overlooked in the back-to-school chaos?

Estate Planning for Young Adults: The Legal Shift at 18

Once your child turns 18, they legally become an adult. This age milestone changes the nature of your legal relationship, meaning you may no longer have the same automatic rights to manage their finances or make medical decisions. With proper estate planning, however, you can ensure that you’re able to step in if they encounter an unexpected crisis.

The Need for a Durable Power of Attorney

A Durable POA is a legal document that allows your child to designate you, or another trusted individual, to manage their financial matters if they become unable to do so themselves. This could be due to a variety of circumstances such as a serious illness, accident, or even studying abroad. The term “durable” means that the POA remains in effect even if your child becomes incapacitated. This document allows you to handle tasks such as paying bills, managing bank accounts, applying for loans, and dealing with other financial matters on your child’s behalf.

It’s particularly crucial for college students who might be studying far from home, or even abroad, and may need assistance with financial transactions or issues that arise unexpectedly. For example, if your child is studying in a different country and their bank account gets frozen, having a Durable POA allows you to liaise with the bank and solve the problem without delay.

In the absence of a Durable POA, parents may find themselves unable to quickly and efficiently manage these issues, potentially causing undue stress and complications. That’s why it’s a good idea to consider this vital piece of your estate planning homework as your child prepares to head off to college.

Medical Decision Making: The Importance of Health Care Proxy

As children embark on their college journey, especially when they’re away from home, having a Health Care Proxy is crucial. It is a legal document that allows your adult child to appoint you, or another trusted individual, to make medical decisions on their behalf should they become incapacitated and unable to make such decisions themselves.

It’s worth noting that upon turning 18, your child is legally recognized as an adult. This means healthcare providers must respect their privacy and may not disclose medical information to anyone, including parents, without explicit consent. This situation can be distressing in an emergency, when fast and informed decision-making is essential.

A Health Care Proxy goes beyond providing access to medical information. If your child is unable to communicate due to an accident or serious illness, the person named in the Health Care Proxy (also known as the agent) has the authority to make medical decisions according to your child’s wishes. This could involve decisions about surgeries, medical procedures, or even end-of-life care.

For students studying on the North Shore of Massachusetts or in a different state or country, having a designated decision-maker who understands their medical history and personal wishes can be vital. This person can communicate directly with healthcare providers, navigate complex medical decisions, and ensure the treatment aligns with your child’s preferences. In the absence of a Health Care Proxy, you may need to go through a court process to obtain legal authority to make these decisions – a process that can be time-consuming and stressful during an already difficult time.

Providing Access to Health Records: HIPAA Release

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) ensures the privacy of a patient’s medical records. Once your child turns 18, you may not automatically have access to their medical information without a signed HIPAA Release. This document is crucial in allowing you to make informed decisions about your child’s healthcare if they are incapacitated.

Contact Your North Shore Estate Planning Professionals Today

Securing your child’s future can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. At Jordan & White, LLC, we can guide you through the process of establishing these essential documents. Our approachable team understands the unique needs and concerns of families on the North Shore, ensuring you feel comfortable and informed throughout your estate planning journey.

Ready to complete your back-to-school estate planning homework? Call us today at 978-744-2811 or contact us online for help with your advance directive living will. We’re here to make estate planning less of a chore and more of an empowerment. Secure your peace of mind today.