Happy 18th Birthday! Now What?
Congratulations! You are now considered a legal adult. Aside from purchasing alcohol, there is now very little you cannot legally do. Even though you may not feel any different, from a legal standpoint, a lot has changed. And one of those is that you need a power of attorney for young adults.
So, before you head off to college, make sure you get your legal affairs in order. You need to appoint individuals to make decisions for you if you cannot do so. Why is this so important?
You see, when you were a minor (under the age of 18), your parents were considered your legal guardians. As your legal guardians, you parents were responsible for making all of your decisions for you. Now that you are an adult, their legal authority is very limited, if not completely gone. Although this new found freedom may sound exciting, there are a few things you need to consider.
Access to Medical Information
As a legal adult, you are protected by the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). That’s HIPAA – not to be confused with HIPPO! So, what is HIPAA anyway?
HIPAA protects your private information. Under HIPAA, you choose who can access your medical records. You designate those person on a HIPAA form. Unless a person is on your designated list of authorized persons, that person cannot review or access your private medical information. Further, your private medical records are not released, or otherwise disclosed, to someone unless he or she is on your HIPAA form. And yes, this includes your parents.
You need to designate your parents as Authorized Recipients if you want them to have access to your medical information. Why would you want to appoint your parents as Authorized Recipients?
Let’s say you are in a car accident. You end up in a coma. You do not have a HIPAA authorizing your parents access to your medical records.
Your mom and dad arrive at the hospital upset and stressed. The doctor will not allow them access to your records. Further, the doctor refuses to allow them to make decisions for you. Worse, the doctor refuses to even discuss your situation with your parents.
I think we are in agreement that this is not a good outcome. So, make sure you sign a HIPAA form allowing your parents access to your medical records. Or, if you do not like your parents, designate someone else you trust.
Imagine you were unable to make medical decisions for yourself? Who would you want to make those decisions on your behalf? Chances are, you would want your parents to make those decisions for you.
As a minor, your parents automatically had that authority. But, now that you are an adult, you must formally grant them this authority. So how do you accomplish this task?
You have an attorney prepare a Health Care Power of Attorney for you. With that document, you name someone to act on your behalf. That person is known as your agent.
You also provide some general guidelines to your agent. You advise your agent of your healthcare wishes.
Do you want certain procedures avoided? What about end of life measures? Do you want your organs or usable tissue to be donated if you die? These are examples of healthcare wishes.
When you sign a Health Care Power of Attorney, you ensure that your healthcare wishes will be done. You also know who will be making those decisions for you. And, your agent knows what decisions to make for you.
Are planning on going away to college? O, spending any significant time away from home? Perhaps traveling overseas? If so, having a Durable Financial Power of Attorney in place may be helpful to you.
Up until now, your parents, as your legal guardians could sign documents on your behalf. Your parents could make bank withdrawals for you. They could even pay bills for you. If you need them to act for you, there was not need for any additional steps.
But now, you are an adult. Your parents are no longer your legal guardians. As such, they can no longer legally act on your behalf. So, you need to grant them authority to act on your behalf.
But how do I do this you wonder? By executing a Durable Power of Attorney. Or, sometimes called a Financial Power of Attorney.
A Financial Attorney enables you to designate a person of your choosing as your agent. This document allows your agent to act on your behalf regarding financial matters.
So, now if you need money transferred to you but you can’t access your bank account, your agent can get the money transferred. Forgot to pay that rent check before you left on that cruise without internet access? No worries, your agent can write that check and pay your rent for you.
Managing Your Stuff When You Die
I know, I know. You just turned 18, not 98. So why should you worry about dying?
Nevertheless, now is a good time to begin some responsible habits. You need to consider what will happen to your assets when you pass away. Why? Unfortunately, no one knows when you will die, including you.
You may think that you do not have any assets, but you actually do. In this digital age, each one of your social media accounts is considered an asset. What will happen to these accounts when you pass away?
You probably have bank account, too. You may even have both a checking and a savings account. If you have a bank account, you have an asset.
Do you own a car? Congratulations, you have an asset.
You also have tangible personal property, which might have more sentimental than financial value. Have a collection? Concert memorabilia? Music? Digital photos?
Do you want just anyone getting these items? If you don’t, then you need to execute a simple will. A simple will or trust allows you to dispose of your assets to whom you want in the manner you want. No matter what the monetary value of those items is.
Now that you are an adult, it is time to start thinking like one. The first step is meeting with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure that you are properly protected now that it is your responsibility. We are here to help you navigate this next chapter in your life and ensure that you are protected for the future to come. Contact us today.