While many of you may be in the midst of sending your children off to college at this time of year, the fact is, whether your child is going to college or not, once they turn 18, they become adults in the eyes of the law and you risk being shut out unless three basic documents are in place.
A general durable power of attorney signed by your now-adult child will allow you to exercise authority over his or her “business type” affairs, such as banking. And, if your child is going to college, the document should include a clause giving you access to your child’s educational records – access that may otherwise be denied under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
A patient advocate designation will enable you to make medical decisions for your adult child if he or she is unable to make those decisions for themselves. That authority should include the power to withhold or withdraw life support. Sound drastic? It is, but so is the possibility of being denied involvement in these decisions should your child become seriously ill or injured.
Lastly, a HIPAA authorization will allow you access to medical information involving your child. Access could be as basic as calling a hospital to ask if your child has been admitted or talking directly to your child’s health care providers.
I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge the ready availability of online versions of these documents. In our experience, these one-size-fits-all, fill-in-the-blank templates, signed without an understanding of the legal concepts and ramifications, often fail to accomplish the desired result, the fact of which you may not discover until it’s too late.
If we can help, contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org or (248) 477-6300.