It is college decision time for so many families and their soon-to-be adult children. Most are fretting over the cost of college, what their child will study, and how far from home they will be in six short months. Between those worries, the endless Amazon orders, and trips to Bed Bath and Beyond, is that their college-age kids need a few simple estate-planning documents in place before they leave. Estate planning documents for an 18-year-old? Yes! The two most important documents that your now-adult child needs are a Health Directive and a Financial Power of Attorney, particularly when they are away from home.
A health care directive in New York is referred to as a Health Care Proxy. A Health Care Proxy is an “advanced directive” that allows someone else to make health care decisions on your behalf. Most assume that this document is only needed for an older person, but that could not be further from the truth. A Health Care Proxy authorizes you to make decisions for your adult child in the case of a medical emergency when they are away. Most importantly, a Proxy can provide you access to your adult child’s health records and information. Access to your adult child’s health information can be vital to ensure that they are receiving proper care, particularly in light of the collective mental health issues that befall so many of our college-bound children. Every Health Care Proxy should contain a privacy waiver, referred to as a HIPPA waiver, that permits your adult child’s healthcare providers to share your adult child’s private health information with you; without this waiver, doctors and nurses cannot provide you with any information regarding your child’s health including, diagnoses, blood test results, treatment plans, etc.
In addition to managing your adult child’s health care concerns, a second advanced directive, commonly referred to as a Financial Power of Attorney, will allow you to assist your child with his finances. Once your child turns 18, they are an adult, and you no longer have access to their child’s bank accounts, their school records, school loans, nor the ability to sign on their behalf. Many parents assume that because they are paying the tuition bill for their child’s college, for example, that they would automatically have access to all of their school information, including transcripts, and that is simply not the case. The power of attorney appoints you as your adult child’s agent to be able to access this information at any time, sign documents on their behalf, open and close bank accounts and renegotiate school loans. While 18 may be the legal age of adulthood, often the financial responsibilities associated with adulthood are best managed with a parent’s assistance, and the Power of Attorney document will provide you the authorization you will need to help your adult child.
Certainly, we all wish that there was a guidebook available to help us send our children off safely to their dorms and embark on their new life of independence. In the meantime, having these two simple documents in place, you will be able to provide the assistance and the guidance that your adult child may need when they first leave home.
ABOUT CANDACE DELLACONA
Candace Dellacona works closely with families throughout every phase of their lives and, as a result, represents multiple generations of the same families. When a client requires representation in business, real estate, tax, litigation or family matters, Candace draws upon her team’s diverse resources to provide them with the security of legal services.
An important part of Candace’s practice includes working with members of the LGBTQ+ community (and those who care for them) and non-traditional families. She creates tailored estate plans that provide for their loved ones and advocates for security and dignity in the treatment of the aged.