So your kids are graduating high school – congratulations! That is one of life’s crowning moments. It’s when we typically feel they have passed into adulthood. Soon they will be off to college, working, or both. Maybe they’ll “leave the nest,” maybe they won’t. Of course, most kids have turned 18 by the time they graduate (or they will soon after). Guess what? You no longer automatically have access to all their information – school, financial, and medical. That’s right . . . whether or not they are adults in your eyes, they are adults in the eyes of the law.
So how can you use this knowledge to help plan appropriately if an emergency situation happened to them? There are 2 main documents you need to have in place for them. When I say “for them,” I literally mean it is their legal document, they sign it, etc. This is not something you do on their behalf . . . ok, maybe they will need you to pay for it (does that ever stop?), but it is their document. They are: general durable power of attorney, and a health care power of attorney and patient advocate designation. These documents legally authorize you (or anyone your child chooses) to make decisions on their behalf relating to their finances, property, and health care. It provides them an opportunity to really think about what they want for themselves and give guidance for you (or another) if something happened to them. They should also consider having stand-alone HIPAA and Michigan Medical Records Access Act authorizations for access to medical records.
It also provides a reminder to have your own planning done. They say that we, as parents, should lead by example. So take the opportunity to put these documents (and others) in place for yourselves. And if you’ve already had an estate plan drafted that hasn’t been reviewed in at least 2 years, this is a good reminder for you to have it reviewed and updated as necessary. Your life, your assets, and the law have likely changed and they will continue to change. Your estate plan should too.
Oh yeah . . . here’s a little tip. Make sure to have the power of attorney authorize you to access their grades. Many schools do not allow access to grades without written authorization from the student. Of course that means they will have to agree to it 🙂
Michael Lichterman is an estate planning attorney focusing on the planning needs of families with minor children and those in the “sandwich generation” (caring for parents and children). He has seen too many plans fail and has a unique, relationship and service driven approach designed to ensure your planning works when it is needed most. Contact us to schedule your Peace of Mind Planning Session to make sure you have these vital documents in place.