What you don’t know can hurt you or rather hurt your young adult children. Many of my clients have children that recently graduated from high school and are now getting ready to send their children off to college. There are some things that you need to know once your child reaches the age of 18 that may not be at the forefront of your mind. Some of those things are (1) that you no longer have access to their medical records, (2) you no longer have carte blanche authority to make medical decisions for them and (3) in some cases to know what their grades are in school or make financial decisions to benefit them.

There are four very impor­tant documents that every 18-year-old should have to help protect them in emergency situations and as part of their starter estate plan. I know you’re thinking... “My child doesn’t have an estate, so why would they need and estate plan” Be that as it may, having the right incapac­ity documents on board is considered estate planning.

The first two documents that every 18-year-old should have onboard are the Statutory power of attorney and an expanded durable power of attorney for finances. These two documents allow the designated agent to make financial decisions and manage accounts among other things financial in nature should an incapacity strike. These documents can also be made effective upon incapacity or effective immediately (for example, in the event a child is studying abroad). Also, sometimes parents need to sign financial documents for a child when their child is in another country or in another state while in college.

The Califor­nia statutory power of attorney is the document that most banks and financial institutions are familiar with and therefore we recommend it. However, it is basic in nature and doesn’t cover the universe of unknown things that might happen as it relates to incapacity estate planning, so we typically recom­mend augmenting it with an expanded durable power of attorney. For example, the expanded durable power of attorney can have provisions in it for the ability to create and fund a revocable trust for the one who signed the power of attorney or allow for access to digital assets, among many other important powers.

The next document that is critical to have as part of your child’s estate plan is the global HIPAA Authorization for Re­lease of Medical Information. A properly drafted global HIPAA allows the nominat­ed HIPAA agents to receive medical information about the condition of the person who has signed the release. If your child is injured and taken to the hospital, the hospital will be unable to release information about their condition or even that they’re at the hospital to anyone without authorization. And that becomes problematic if your child is unable to give that authorization due to injury or illness. But if your child executes this release, you can fax this to the hospital or present it in person and they will be able to release medical information to you.

The last document that is critical for every young adult is the Advance Health Care Directive. This is the docu­ment that allows a nominated agent to make medical decisions for the person signing the document in the event they lack capacity to make their own medical decisions. Some of the other things that the Advance Health Care Directive covers is allowing the person signing the document to elect the choice to prolong life or the choice not to prolong life as well as whether or not they would like to be an organ donor.

If you need help with planning for your young adult child to make sure they are protected now over the age of 18, please contact our Intake Coordinator, Katie Nance, at (760) 448-2220 about our special incapacity plan called the College Protection Plan.