My daughter Amy turned 18 on Sunday, April 29, 2012. On Monday April 30, 2012 Amy came in to our office to sign her Last Will, Trust, Power of Attorney, and all of her health care documents. You may ask “Why? Why did I have my 18 year old daughter sign her estate plan?” The answer is one word. CONTROL. If Amy would not have signed the documents when she reached age 18, I would have legally lost my ability to get information about her health care, her finances and her education.
As an estate planning attorney, I see this situation very clearly. Amy is still my “baby” but according to the law, my baby is an adult. It’s the year she graduated from high school, and its the year she will vote for the first time. I consider myself a normal parent. Most parents find it difficult to think of their new 18 year old as an adult; especially if that 18 year old is still living at home, still on the parents’ health or auto insurance, and still needs financial assistance for college, rent, or other necessities. This is why many parents (and adult children as well) are taken by surprise when suddenly school, state, and healthcare officials are no longer able to share information with parents due to privacy protection laws.
Privacy protection laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and legal documents such as an Advanced Healthcare Directive, DocuBank or a Durable Power of Attorney may seem irrelevant to an 18 year old, but these rules and these documents should be taken very seriously by both parents and adult children. Without these documents parents may not be able to make healthcare decisions for their child in an emergency, and in some situations may not even be able to obtain critical information about a sick or injured young adult.
Every adult child’s first trip to my office should be at the age of 18, when these crucial documents can be signed, and when parents and their children can discuss (perhaps for the first time) their options for medical and financial decision-making in emergency situations. This step is a vital step toward adulthood; and it’s one that can make both parents and children feel more secure and at peace as other rites of passage occur in the coming years.
Please contact Ilene McCauley to set up an appointment for your new young adult. You can reach us at 480-296-2036 or at Ilene@gandmlaw.net.