As your children come home from college or get ready to leave, take care of some simple matters that could save your family from turmoil under the worst of circumstances.
Everyone knows that even though your children may be going off to college, you will always be their parent and continue to take care of things. You will wash their laundry when they come home, send them money when things get tight and help them out when they need it. For most things, their age won’t matter, but for other things, it will.
You want your children to grow up to be self-reliant and fiscally responsible, but what about in the case of an emergency? What happens if your child has to go to the hospital and is unable to communicate with the doctors? Who will they call? Who will pay the bills or deal with the insurance company? You may think that person is you, but once they turn 18, they have to give you those rights that were inherently yours as a parent when they were minors.
So, how do they give you those rights? Through the use of 3 simple documents that will allow you to step in and help when your child needs it most.
Medical Power of Attorney / Health Care Proxy
This document allows the person(s) the child designates to make medical decisions in the event they are incapacitated and unable to do so. It also generally gives the person named the right to medical information, but sometimes there may be a question as to the capacity of your child. In those cases, it is helpful to have a HIPAA release. Without a Medical Power of Attorney, the only way for someone to have this authority may be to petition for a guardianship in court, which is the last place you would want to be in the event of a crisis.
HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) restricts “covered entities” from sharing your protected health information with others. If an entity violates the HIPAA regulations, they are subject to civil fines as well as criminal penalties. As a result, even under the most dire circumstances, you may not be able to have access to your child’s medical information without a HIPAA release. With a HIPAA release, your child can designate a person who is authorized to receive protected health information and share diagnosis and treatment options. Unlike the Medical Power of Attorney, the HIPAA release is effective immediately and does not require that your child be incapacitated. It will also enable you to discuss your child’s insurance claims directly with the insurance company in the event it is necessary.
Durable Power of Attorney
The Durable Power of Attorney will allow your child to authorize you to manage his or her financial affairs either: a. immediately; or, b. in the future in the event he or she should become mentally incapable of doing so. Like the Medical Power of Attorney, the Durable Power of Attorney can be limited to become effective only upon the incapacity of the child. However, problems may arise in situations where there is a disagreement over whether someone is incapacitated or not. For this reason, it is recommended that the Durable Power of Attorney be executed to be effective immediately, and it will continue to be effective even in the event of later incapacity.
Q. We live in Texas, but our child is going to college in Oklahoma. Can you still draft the documents?
A. Yes. Most likely your child’s residence with not change just because they are attending college out of state, so the documents should be drafted by a Texas attorney.
Q. Do you need to meet with my child or can I just have you send him/her to documents to sign?
A. Although it is not required that I meet with them, it is definitely recommended. At the very least, I would want to have a private conversation with your child to discuss the documents. The child is my client for the purpose of those documents, and I need to make sure they understand what they are signing.