Looking for the perfect gift for the high school graduate in your family? If so, consider a gift certificate to meet with an attorney to learn about and to create Durable Powers of Attorney. When Illinois teenagers turn 18, the state considers them to be adults with the legal right to govern their own life, including their health care and financial decision-making. This often comes as a surprise to many parents, who no longer have the same level of access to or authority over their child’s financial, educational and medical information. As long as all is well, this can be fine. However, it’s important for adults of any age (even those who have just turned 18) to plan for the unexpected. Encouraging your child to set up a life care plan, and possibly an estate plan, that includes some (or all) of the following documents is a “gift” than you can give to your child:
- Durable Health Care Power of Attorney
Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, once your child turns 18, the child's health records are now between the child and his or her health care provider. The HIPAA laws prevent you from even getting medical updates in the event your child is unable to communicate his or her wishes to have you involved. Without a HIPAA release, you may have many obstacles before receiving critically needed information, including whether your adult child has even been admitted to a particular medical facility.
Should your child suffer a medical crisis resulting in the child's inability to communicate for him or herself, doctors and other medical professionals may refuse to speak with you and allow you to make medical decisions for your child. You may be forced to hire an attorney to petition to have you appointed as your child’s legal guardian by a court. At this time of crisis, your primary concern is to ensure your child is taken care of and you do not need the additional burden of court proceedings and associated legal costs. A Power of Attorney for Health Care with a HIPAA release would enable your child to designate you or another trusted person to make medical decisions in the event your child is unable to convey his or her wishes.
- Durable Power of Attorney for Property
Like medical information, your 18-year-old child’s finances are also private. If your child becomes incapacitated, without a Durable Power of Attorney for Property you cannot access the child's bank accounts or credit cards to make sure bills are being paid. If you needed to access financial accounts in order to manage or resolve any problem, you may be forced to seek the court’s appointment as legal guardian of your child’s estate.
Absent a crisis, a Power of Attorney for Property can also be helpful with issues that may arise when your child is away at college or traveling. For example, if your child is traveling and an issue comes up where they cannot access their accounts, a Power of Attorney for Property would give you or another trusted person the authority to manage the issue.
Your child owns any funds given to him or her as a minor or that he or she may have earned. Thus, for some, creating a Will when turning 18 will also be recommended. To determine whether creating a Will upon turning 18 is recommended, seeking legal advice is encouraged.
While some may consider a gift certificate to meet with an attorney to discuss creating a life care plan an unconventional “gift,” I know from personal experience the value of having these documents in place, particularly when my husband and I sent our 18 year-old children off to college. Thus, if you have a child, grandchild, niece, nephew, etc. who is approaching adulthood, we encourage you to consider this unconventional and extremely thoughtful gift. For additional information about life care planning, visit our website.