What legal documents does a young adult need?

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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!

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