The years parents dedicate to raising a child can seemingly flash by, while at other times they may seem never-ending. Adulthood can sneak up on both child and parent, and as a child turns 18 there are several authoritative roles to be assumed in a hurry for both parties. Chief among these are the durable right of attorney and the healthcare proxy: two fundamental documents of estate planning.
These documents are just as relevant to young adults a to the older people they are traditionally associated with. If a young adult was disabled in an accident, the parents might need court approval to act on their behalf, if the right of attorney and healthcare proxy were not present. These two fundamental documents allow parents to arrange healthcare decisions and manage money on their child’s behalf, if that ever becomes necessary. They are important to have in place, more significant legally than college funding, named dependencies on tax documents or inclusion of the child on the parents’ health insurance.
A quarter of a million young Americans aged 18 to 25 are hospitalized annually with non life threatening injuries as a result of accidents, according to the recent Forbes article “Two Documents Every 18 Year Old Should Sign.” It makes sense to get the paperwork done.
The health care proxy is a document that allows another named person to decide on medical matters on another person’s behalf. It may also entitle them to access medical records. It is often complemented by a living will, which can stand as a statement of a person’s preferences for end-of-life care. The proxy is also referred to as a “health care power to attorney” or “health care agent.”
Typically it is a parent who is the designated agent for medical and legal matters. However, it may also be another adult relative such as an aunt or uncle, or older sibling. Either way, options should be kept open by designating an alternate in case the subject’s first choice is unavailable or unwilling to serve if called upon.
The power of attorney can be an extremely useful benefit when a young person embarks, like so many others, on foreign travels. It’s a document that can cut through many levels of red tape should something untoward happen to them overseas.
Hopefully you can explain the importance of these documents to your son or daughter, and if you have any doubts, it’s well worth considering making the investment of a consultation with your estate planning attorney. They can draft a package of documents, explain them to both parent and child and answer any questions either party has.