It’s that time of year when many high school graduates are preparing to leave home, whether it be to attend college or join the workforce. While families prepare for this change in their child’s lives, many parents forget that they no longer possess the legal authority to make health care and financial decisions on behalf of their child once he or she turns 18. Without the proper advanced planning documents in place, parents would need to obtain a court order to exercise this authority on behalf of their adult child, 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 more fully understand what these documents do.
Durable Powers of Attorney: Authorizes the designated attorney-in-fact to act on behalf of the adult child 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, forwarding mail, etc. Durable Powers of Attorney can be either immediate or “springing”. To activate a springing Durable Power of Attorney, the adult child must be deemed incapacitated by two different physicians (or pursuant to 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 behalf of the adult child 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. The HIPAA Authorizations is also effective even if the adult child’s Power of Attorney for Health Care has not yet been activated.
Most of the time, a parent will never need to utilize these documents (at least they hope not to) on behalf of their child. However, it is better to hope for the best and plan for the worst.
If you should have questions regarding these issues, please contact Lin Law LLC at (920) 393-1190.