Estate Planning for Young Adults
Written By: The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys
Parents know there is no statute-of-limitations on worrying about their kids. Your interest in your child’s health does not end once your son or daughter reaches adulthood. However, your legal interest in having a say about your child’s medical care ends on the day that he or she turns 18. This means that while you have the final word about medical care one day, the next day you will not even have access to your child’s medical records.
The passage of the Affordable Care Act has complicated the issue of medical care for young adults in many ways. Kids are now able to stay on their parent’s health insurance plans until the age of 26. This has created the mistaken belief among many parents that they still have a right to be involved in medical decisions.
The reality, however, is that privacy laws under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) ensure that a parent is not entitled to know what kinds of care that child is getting. Without a child’s formal permission, parents cannot so much as take a glance at the medical records of a son or daughter who is 18 or older, even if the young adult is still living at home and the parents are paying for the insurance policy that covers the care.
Young adults may view this as a good thing if they don’t want their parents to know they had to go to the clinic for a pregnancy test or for treatment for overconsumption of alcohol. However, serious problems can arise if a young adult is injured in an accident or is otherwise incapacitated. No one thinks about estate planning for someone who has just turned 18, but unless you talk to a lawyer and get some basic documents in place, you may need to deal with complex legal issues if a young adult you love becomes sick or injured.
When college students are injured or killed, the death is usually not from disease but instead occurs because of a sudden and unexpected incident such as suicide, traffic accidents or violent crime. In fact, suicide is the cause of 6.18 deaths among every 100,000 students at four-year universities, and alcohol-related motor vehicle collisions cause 3.37 deaths for every 100,000 according to the American Public Health Association. By contrast, cancer causes only 1.94 deaths per 100,000 college students.
After an accident or an attempted suicide, a child may be unable to make choices about his or her care. In the case of a suicide or a drug overdose, the child may also need medical assistance that he or she may not want, such as admission to a rehabilitation center or mental health counseling. Parents with a child 18 or older won’t automatically have the ability to take care of their children and get them the help they need under these circumstances because they are considered adults in the eyes of the law. Parents will also be unable to access their child’s financial accounts or get information about student loans and financial obligations while their child is incapacitated.
Planning ahead in case something unexpected occurs is essential and a qualified estate planning attorney can help you create:
• A HIPAA Authorization Form
• A Health Care Directive
• A Property Power of Attorney
These documents won’t give the parent the right to interfere with routine medical choices their child is making on a regular basis. However, they do provide parents with the legal authority to be there for their children in a time of need, even when their child is officially an adult. Talking to an estate planning attorney and getting these legal matters sorted out now is the right choice.