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3 Legal Documents Every Graduating Senior Needs To Make Sure Parents Can Act On Their Behalf in Case of An Emergency

Posted by Steve Worrall | Apr 23, 2021

It's graduation time! Even though the ceremony may look a little different this year because of COVID-19, it still means your “baby” is all grown up and preparing to head out into the real world. But, before your child (or grandchild!) plans to head off for college or pursues other endeavors, it's important to think about a few life changes now that he or she is an “adult” in the eyes of the law.

Blocked By HIPAA Laws

From a legal standpoint, you may be surprised to learn that you now need written permission to make any important medical or financial decisions on your adult child's behalf because of HIPAA regulations.

For example, if your child needs medical records for college or an internship, you won't be able to reach out to his or her doctor anymore without explicit permission. Nor will you be able to contact banks, change flight plans, or even communicate with the admissions office at school.

Worse, if your child is injured or needs urgent medical treatment (perhaps if he or she contracts the coronavirus and needs hospital care), doctors may refuse to speak to you because of privacy laws. There's no greater nightmare for parents than being shut out of their child's care when fast (and potentially life-saving) decisions need to be made.

An Easy Solution

Fortunately, these situations are entirely avoidable by having 3 simple legal documents in place. You can officially celebrate your child's “rite of passage” into adulthood by helping him or her create the following:

  • Advance Health Care Directive- This document allows a young adult to appoint someone they trust (the parent) to be their health care agent, should they become incapacitated and unable to speak for themself. It also specifies their personal wishes for medical treatment in an emergency.
  • Financial Power of Attorney- A financial power of attorney allows the teen to give someone they trust (preferably the parents) permission to access bank accounts and act financially on their behalf if an emergency occurs. Activities covered under the power of attorney include paying bills, buying or selling assets, applying for social security or other government benefits, and the opening and closing of accounts.
  • Signed HIPAA Form- Parents should have their adult child pre-sign a HIPAA form to ensure they can immediately communicate with physicians and access important medical records.

Finally, for added protection, it's wise to create an ICE Card (In Case Of Emergency) to be kept in the child's wallet listing the names of all approved emergency contacts, health insurance information, and all known allergies.

Protect Your Child By Staying In Control

Remember, it's natural to want to jump in and help your child in an emergency. Yet without these documents in place, you could be a helpless spectator if he or she is unable to communicate. Especially during the current COVID crisis, it's important to help your young adult create these designation documents in order to have the right to get involved in his or her care. If you have questions about helping your young adult put these important legal documents in place, please contact our office at 770-425-6060 to schedule an appointment. 

About the Author

Steve Worrall

As a sandwich generation kid himself (caring for both children and aging parents), Marietta Georgia Estate Planning Elder Law & Probate Attorney Steve (Stephen M.) Worrall KNOWS the struggles you are facing as you raise children, balance the demands of your job, and take care of your aging parent...