Should your high school grad’s college-readiness checklist include powers of attorney?

Despite recent events, many high school graduates are now preparing to leave home, whether it be to attend college or join the workforce. While preparing for this enormous change in their child’s lives, many parents forget that they will no longer be able to make health care and financial decisions on their child’s behalf once he or she turns 18. Without the proper documents in place, parents must obtain a court order to exercise this authority on their adult child’s behalf, even if the child becomes incapacitated. For this reason, we recommend that all parents encourage their children to implement a Durable Power of Attorney, Power of Attorney for Health Care, and HIPAA Authorization for Release of Protected Health Information upon attaining age 18. In doing so, it may be helpful to have a better understanding of what these documents do.

Durable Power of Attorney: Authorizes the designated attorney-in-fact to act on the adult child’s behalf with respect to most financial matters. This could include managing bank accounts, paying bills, signing tax returns, applying for government benefits, applying for a lease, etc. Durable Powers of Attorney can be either immediate or “springing.” In order to activate a springing Durable Power of Attorney, the adult child must be deemed incapacitated by two different physicians (or, under recent legislation, one physician and one psychologist, physician’s assistant, or nurse practitioner).

Power of Attorney for Health Care: Authorizes the designated health care agent to make medical decisions on the adult child’s behalf if he or she is incapacitated. Like a springing (as opposed to immediate) Durable Power of Attorney, a Power of Attorney for Health Care must be activated upon the adult child’s incapacitation.

HIPAA Authorization for Release of Protected Health Information: Authorizes an adult child’s health care providers to release information to and discuss the child’s medical care with the designated individuals. Without this authorization, health care providers are legally prohibited from discussing the adult child’s care with third-parties, even if those third-parties are the child’s parents. Importantly, the HIPAA Authorization is effective even if the adult child’s Power of Attorney for Health Care has not yet been activated.

Nine times out of ten, a parent will never need to utilize these documents on their child’s behalf, but it’s always better to hope for the best and plan for the worst.

If you have questions on this topic, please contact Lin Law LLC at (920) 393-1190.