Brand new adults should get an Advance Health Care Directive and a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances before they are sent off for college. These two documents work together to protect a parent’s ability to access their young adult’s life should their child become incapacitated – when they need it most. In the absence of these forms, a parent may need to obtain a conservatorship from the courts before they can take legal steps on behalf of their incapacitated child. This is why we think getting your legal affairs in order should be added to every college-bound student’s checklist of things to accomplish before leaving the fold. Plus, buying one for your 18-year-old’s birthday present is a great way to demonstrate the seriousness of taking responsibility for one’s own life.*
The Age of Majority Dilemma
Parents and their children oftentimes overlook the serious consequences of turning 18. Becoming an adult is an awesome right-of-passage. Children are now an adult in the eyes of the law. There are some huge positive gains to an individual’s freedoms as the vast list of restrictions on minors is lifted. An 18-year-old can: rent an apartment, take charge of their finances, buy or rent a car on their own (no more legal need to get consent from mommy, daddy, or a guardian). An 18-year-old can enter into legal contracts, get married, obtain firearms, smoke, and vote in elections. In summary, the number of freedoms have just expanded and with it the ability to make their own destiny.
Of course, adulthood also brings challenges, responsibilities, and potentially harsher consequences when one exercises freedoms in a way that wrongfully interferes with those around you. As an adult, one new responsibility you have is for yourself.
Parents of adult children do not have automatic access to their children’s legal affairs.
The status as legal guardian automatically terminates when someone turns 18-years-old. In turn, parents no longer have to support their adult children financially. If you hurt someone or breach a contract, you can now be sued personally. You are now responsible to make payment on and file your own income taxes. You must register for the military. Also, don’t forget, if you commit a crime, you will not have the protection of the juvenile court and laws; you could wind up in jail for something that, at a younger age, might have resulted in no more than a stern lecture and a ride home in a police car. For a list of the broad list of changes facing new members of adulthood, check out the State Bar of California’s publication: http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Portals/0/documents/publications/Turn-18.pdf
Why is Nominating a Health Care Agent and Durable Power of Attorney is Important?
What if mom and/or dad are still needed to help out in a time of immense need? For example, what if you are in an accident and injured, and you want mom or dad’s assistance at the hospital? HIPAA laws would prevent anyone from accessing your medical records, and hospitals will not release any of your private information (including your name or even your presence) to anyone else without your consent. What if someone is needed to access your bank account, submit DMV paperwork, or help a young adult with some contractual matter?
Simply put, an unconscious person is not able to give consent or ask for help. It’s too late.
Every year thousands of young college students are seriously injured. These are brand new adults who step out of the immediate care of their parents to face the world alone, and sometimes due to pure statistical misfortune (and sometimes purely due to underdeveloped decision-making skills), they get injured. The statistical odds of being injured increase if participating in college sports. According to the NCAA and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, the number of college athlete injuries averages around 12,500 per year. See, https://www.livestrong.com/article/553462-how-injuries-affect-athletes-later-in-life/. Young adults need legal help now more than ever.
A Real Life Example
By way of example, the author of this article was injured while a 20-year-old college student when hit on a bicycle by a Ford F-550 truck. After being airlifted to a trauma hospital across town my parents and family members could not locate me. Many phone calls were made, but hospitals could neither affirm nor deny my having been admitted to a facility. I was in surgery, unconscious, and incapacitated for a number of days. I was unable to reach out to my parents or consent to releasing information for some time.
One easy way to avoid this conundrum is to have new young adults immediately execute an Advance Health Care Directive and a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances. These two documents permit a parent to access certain aspects of their young adult child’s life should that child become incapacitated (assuming the parent is the adult child’s nominated agent).
- The Advance Healthcare Directive permits a person to make medical decisions and access medical information in the event that someone becomes incapacitated. Parents with a valid Advance Health Care Directive could obtain immediate access to assist their adult child in their most vulnerable moments.
- A Durable Power of Attorney document permits a person to make financial decisions, access non-medical information, and step into the shoes of an incapacitated person. Parents with a valid Durable Power of Attorney could obtain immediate access to assist their adult child in their legal affairs.
Oftentimes these two types of forms can be prepared and delivered electronically the same-day. If you also do not have your own estate plan, now is a good time to act.
Call today: 844-4-A-Legacy
*NOTICE: Anytime someone is paying for the legal services of another (such as a parent making payment on behalf of a child) a conflict of interest waiver must be on file prior to making such payment, fully executed by the party receiving legal advice and also the party making payment. A payer does not automatically gain access to a client’s legal file simply by making payment, and access is only granted by the client.
Originally published July 16, 2018 by Merrill A. Hanson (SBN 292235). This is not nor is it intended to be legal advice and you should not rely upon it. You should seek out an attorney for your own unique legal situation and to verify whether the information herein is still accurate.
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