Are Your Minor Children and Adult Children Protected?

children-at-funeralI know you’ve heard this from me before, but at this time of year, it is especially important to check some of your important documents to be sure your children are protected.

First, your minor children.  You should have legal documents designating who you want to care for your children should you and your spouse both die.  Many people include this in their will or living trust.  But it is always a good idea to double check who you appointed to make sure they are still the people you want to designate.  If not, you should have a codicil to your will or an amendment to your living trust prepared.

But what happens if both of you are not killed in an accident, but are incapacitated for a lengthy time?  Who will serve as guardian then?  Your will does not come into play until you die.  So it is prudent to sign another document designating guardians for your children should this situation arise.

Next, is your adult children.  Once your child is over eighteen, they are considered an adult.  Even if they are attending college or living at home, they are considered an adult.  You might think that since you are paying all of your adult child’s bills, the doctors and hospitals will provide you all the medical information about your son or daughter.   Well, most likely they will be happy to accept your money, but they still won’t tell you anything that violates privacy laws.  And banks are unlikely to discuss your adult child’s accounts and investments with you either.

Well, surely there are exceptions for emergencies, right? There may be, but even in an emergency you are not guaranteed access to doctors or schools, and you will not have access to bank accounts.  Frankly, it is more likely your child will need assistance in a non-emergency situation.

No matter how dependent your son or daughter remains financially and emotionally for the next few years, the law regards him or her as having complete autonomy.  Your child is now an adult and needs the same protective documents that you do.  We all need people we trust to speak or act on our behalf if ever we cannot.  At a minimum, you and your adult children should have a Durable Power of Attorney, a Medical Power of Attorney and a HIPAA Release

If you or your child need to update or create any of these documents or if you just wish to meet to discuss what you need now, contact an experienced estate planning attorney.  I’m always glad to help if you contact my office.

Don’t delay.  Explain to your child why a Medical Power of Attorney, HIPAA Release,  and Durable Power of Attorney are vital legal documents that will ensure that someone they love and trust will be allowed to step in to manage their affairs and to be the voice advocating for them when he/she needs it most

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