Many people are into do-it-yourself or DIY projects for every aspect of their lives. While DIY home improvement projects are great, should you DIY your legal documents?

Some online sites will let you create a will or a power of attorney for health care or financial documents, while other sites allow you to create a trust. These online forms make it easy for you to DIY your legal documents, simply answer questions and pay with your credit card at the end. Super easy and legal in all 50 states, right? Wrong.

Unfortunately, the average American does not always understand the difference is between a trust, a will, and a financial power of attorney document. For example, some people incorrectly believe that a will avoids probate court or some people believe they need a revocable trust when an irrevocable trust is better for their needs.

The use of these online, DIY websites allow this misinformation to continue, especially because users believe they will receive expert care while also saving money. This is a false sense of security.  Prices are misleading and an online service can’t create the same documents – tailored to your needs – and provide you with legal advice that a trusted and accredited attorney can.

Here are 7 issues you could run into when using a DIY legal forms site:

  1. The choice between multiple forms without an informed perspective on what form is the best fit for you.
  2.  A templated form that is not tailored to your financial and estate planning needs.
  3.  A website that will not review your answers and will not help you if something is incorrect.
  4.  Disclosure statements that state they are not a law firm, or a substitute for an attorney or law firm, and that they cannot provide any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation about possible legal rights,  remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies
  5.  Laws are state-specific and there is no way to confirm that the form you have selected is accepted in your state.
  6.  Websites may provide you with basic forms – but not a comprehensive estate plan that meets your needs.
  7.  Incorrect documents and/or improper drafting of documents can cost you thousands of dollars, resulting in much more expense than doing it right the first time.

An experienced estate planning law firm, such as Carrier Law, will ask the right questions, find out your needs and design a plan that is tailored to you.  Not just filling in a blank form.

Here are 3 huge benefits of using an experienced estate planning attorney:

  1.  They will think of things that you have not. It is their job to cover all the bases and ask enough questions to make good recommendations.
  2.  The attorney will be trained and experienced in providing you with good legal advice as to why or why not a document is appropriate, and if appropriate, how it should be drafted.
  3.  The attorney will guide you in selecting your agents: Attorney-In-fact, Patient Advocate, Trustee, Guardian, Conservator, as well as designing a distribution plan for your assets upon your passing.

Preparing your estate plan needs to be done right, and your mistakes will not likely be caught until after you die, and then it is often too late to fix them. The team at Carrier Law is not only expertly trained but cares for you and your loved ones in a way an online form cannot. We work with you to create a plan that will protect your assets fully and give you peace of mind.

You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to consult with our team of attorneys. Schedule an appointment or give us a call to learn more and get started. We look forward to helping you create a secure and protected future.

On a child’s 18th birthday, they become a legal adult and their parents no longer have natural parental rights. This means that access to the child’s health, financial, and educational records will cease, and the parents no longer have the right to make medical or financial decisions on their behalf.

Whether your child is getting ready to graduate from high school, enlist in the military or attend college, you should consider three essential estate planning documents if they are 18 or older.

These documents will help you set up successful, legally-bound form of communication and access for your young adult.

Document 1: HCPOA

A Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA) document designates Medical Patient Advocates who can make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make those decisions on your own. A common misconception is that a HCPOA is only relevant when dealing with end-of-life scenarios. However, a HCPOA can be used when anyone, 18 and over, is deemed incompetent or incapacitated in some way by two treating physicians.

With a HCPOA, the Patient Advocate (you as the parent) can access the patient’s (your child’s) medical records, speak to doctors about health status, consent to or refuse treatment, and make medication decisions.

In addition to providing powers over physical health decisions, a properly drafted HCPOA will also include mental health provisions. If your child has a mental health emergency, a HCPOA could give you the authority to initiate the proper evaluations and consent to treatment.

The HPCOA does have some limitations, which makes a HIPAA Release extremely important.

Document 2: HIPAA Release

A Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Release (HIPAA) is meant to act independent of the HCPOA, and even if the child is competent. HIPAA is a federal privacy law that exists in order to protect your personal health information. The HIPAA form is your way of providing permission to health care and insurance providers to release your protected health care information to specified individuals. Without this release, health care providers are only authorized to release information to the patient.

A HIPAA Release is effective immediately upon signing. While a HIPAA Release does not give you the authority to make medical treatment decisions on behalf of another person, it does give you immediate access to a patient’s medical records.

Document 3: FPOA

A Financial Power of Attorney (FPOA) document grants you power over your child’s finances and can be useful in a variety of circumstances, including: the authority to open accounts, close accounts, write checks, make deposits, file tax returns, and access any digital assets (online accounts, social media accounts).

A FPOA can be drafted so that it’s effective immediately upon signing. Making it effective immediately allows you to seamlessly jump in and act without delay and without the added step of getting signatures from two doctors showing that your son or daughter is not competent.

A FPOA could come in handy if your child is studying abroad and you need to pay their bills while they are gone or if you are presented with every parent’s favorite question, “Can I have some more money?” A FPOA will give you access to any accounts your child has open so you can pay their bills or monitor their spending habits, and it will allow you to easily deposit money into their account, if needed.

A FPOA is also essential in the event of an emergency. If your child ends up in the hospital, you’ll need to pay their rent and keep their other accounts current while they are unable to do so.

Additional document if attending higher education: FERPA

Finally, if your child is attending a college or university, they should also sign a Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Waiver. FERPA is a federal law that protects a student’s privacy by restricting access to student education records. Once a child is 18 years old, the school must have the student’s written consent on file prior to disclosing any educational records to the parent, even if the parent is footing the tuition bill.

A FERPA release allows the child to give their parents (or any named individual) unfiltered access to all educational records, including information on course selection, grades, attendance, account balances, billing records, and financial aid information. The child also has the ability to pick and choose which records their parents can request. For instance, a child may allow their parent to request billing records and account details, but deny them access to their grades.

Get the Essentials for Young Adults package from Carrier Law

When a child turns 18 your unrestricted access to their grades, tuition information and health care records comes to an end, even if they are still covered under your health insurance plan or if you are paying the college tuition. Creating a comprehensive young adult estate plan will protect both you and your child from unnecessary stress and your child from financial and medical uncertainty. Schedule a free appointment to get started!

Carrier Law has added to its Estate Planning and Elder Law arsenal of tools a HIPAA authorization in accordance to the Health Insurance and Accountability Act’s provisions.

What is HIPAA?

HIPAA is an abbreviation for “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act”. In 1996, Congress enacted HIPAA to protect individually identifiable health care information from being disclosed to an unauthorized individual. In 2002, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHSS) finalized standards for the electronic exchange, privacy and security of health information.

HIPAA requires any health care entity, including a physician’s office, a hospital or other health care facility, or an insurer, that deals with personal health information to follow strict rules about how to handle protected information. For example, Health and Human Services allows physicians and insurance companies to exchange individually identifiable health information to pay a health claim but would not allow them to release it publicly.

HIPAA also limits the ability of a new employer health plan to exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions. This means a person who has health insurance coverage can change jobs — and therefore health plans — without worrying that a condition that they already have, such as diabetes or asthma, would not be covered under the new health plan.

Some Pros and Cons of HIPAA


HIPAA benefits for the patient:

  • Grants the patient the legal right to see, copy, and correct their personal medical information.
  • Prevents employers from accessing and using personal health information to make employment decisions.
  • Enables patients with pre-existing conditions to change jobs without worrying that their conditions would not be covered under a new employer’s health plan.


HIPAA’s effects have not all been positive.

  • In a time of a medical crisis, a patient may be incapacitated and not able sign a HIPAA authorization granting someone access to needed medical information. Therefore, the HIPAA authorization must be signed and in place before the medical crisis arises.
  • The American Medical Association claims that the HIPAA regulations are a tremendous burden on the doctors and healthcare providers to comply with the complicated rules.
  • HIPAA has spawned a mini-industry of companies and consultants who help medical professionals comply with the law’s lengthy provisions. All adding to the cost of healthcare.
  • Some professionals who deal with medical paperwork have become overcautious about releasing protected information. For example, some physician’s offices now refuse to mail test results, requiring patients to pick them up in person. Some hospitals require physicians to submit written requests on their own letterhead for information on a patient’s condition, when the law allows this information to be provided by phone.

Carrier Law Cares

To make sure you are prepared in a time of medical crisis to allow authorized individuals access to your health care information, Carrier Law will provide, upon request, free of charge to all Carrier Law’s past and current clients a HIPAA authorization. Call our office for details.

To download our HIPAA form, click here.