Legal Planning for Young Adults

Thankfully, we do not confront events like the Virginia Tech or Oikos University (Oakland, CA) shootings on college campuses every day. But other unforeseeable events such as illness or automobile accidents can occur at any time.

At age 18, our “children” are legally adults. HIPAA rules may preclude medical professionals from communicating with anyone who is not designated by the ill or injured person prior to becoming incapacitated, even temporarily. Ask yourself:

  • If your child becomes disabled or incapacitated, who will make medical or financial decisions on their behalf?
  • Who will medical professionals release information to?
  • How do you avoid a guardianship to make medical and financial decisions for your adult child if he/she becomes incapacitated?

Obtain basic legal documents to protect your children, their health and their credit.

According to a 2006 Florida Traffic Crash Statistics report there were 68,050 car accidents involving drivers between the ages of 18-24. As parents we are concerned with the safety and well-being of our children and also with knowing how we can make medical and financial decisions for our children if they become incapacitated.

After the Virginia Tech incident, many parents were alarmed when they were denied access to information about the medical condition of their child due to the HIPAA Privacy Rule. They were told by the hospital that a college age child was a legal adult and the parent could not access information or, make medical decisions for the child absent written authorization. The HIPAA Privacy Rule imposes a penalty on a health care provider who releases information without the authorization of the patient. More and more health care providers are strictly following the confidentiality requirements of the HIPAA Privacy Rule.

Families can plan ahead to avoid emotional distress and the necessity for a court supervised guardianship proceeding.

The child can execute a ‘Designation of Health Care Surrogate’ and ‘Durable Power of Attorney’ on their 18th birthday. They are legally enforceable documents that identify those persons (i.e. parents) authorized to make medical decisions; make financial decisions and access medical records if the adult child is incapacitated and unable to give informed consent.

A guardianship may result in a loss of privacy (most court proceedings are public records) and is expensive. The documents can be changed when the child marries or is independent and responsible enough should he/she want to designate their spouse or domestic partner, or other trusted adult.

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