Why Does My 18 Year Old Need An Estate Planner?

Your child has turned 18 and is on their way to experience life as an adult! Congratulations to them and to you! Perhaps they are going to college, off to travel, or have found a job! Your child is likely just starting out and has no “estate” to worry about planning for! But remember, they are legally an adult which comes with many perks, responsibilities and rights, including important privacy rights.

Strange but true: If your child is at college or traveling and falls ill or is in a car accident, you may be surprised that you will never be fully informed about what has happened. You may rush to the hospital only to be turned away with very little information.

How is this possible? They are still your little boy or girl in your eyes, but as legal adults, HIPPA prohibits disclosure of your child’s medical information without their consent. If your child is temporarily incapacitated, you are not going to be able to make decisions for them. You will first have to appear in court and initiate guardianship proceedings. This takes time and money and can cause conflict when more than one person wants to be guardian (which is sometimes the case when parents are divorced).

More to consider: Not only that, but who will pay their bills, access their credit card records and reverse bank fees for late payments? Financial institutions also protect privacy and will not allow anyone else into your child’s bank accounts without court approval through a conservatorship proceeding. Again, this can be a headache.

What can be done? Three simple documents fix these problems:

  • Oregon Advance Directive – The Oregon Advance Directive has two parts, the first of which appoints someone to act as your health care power of attorney (also known as your living will). This allows your child to appoint you to make their medical decisions for them.
  • HIPPA release – A valid HIPPA release allows medical information to be shared with other family members, even if they are not the ones making the medical decisions.
  • Durable Power of Attorney – the Durable Power of Attorney, also called Financial Power of Attorney, allows someone else to step in and take control of a person’s finances for them. Your child can choose that this only becomes effective after incapacity. A person holding your child’s power of attorney must act in good faith towards the best interest of your child.

The Oregon Advance Directive and HIPPA release are likely valid if you get them from the hospital which can be done for free. However, a power of attorney has many more laws regulating it and many downloadable or pre-packaged powers of attorney do not work as they were supposed to.

How can I help? Visiting an experienced estate planning attorney will give you peace of mind when your child leaves the nest. Matthew G. Matrisciano is an expert in estate planning, powers of attorney, wills, trusts, and probate. Mention this newsletter and get a free 30 minute consultation!

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