Your durable power of attorney and healthcare proxy (sometimes called a medical power of attorney) are legal documents that authorize another person to manage your affairs in the event of your incompetence or incapacity. Your bases are covered, but what happens if your child becomes ill or incapacitated?
Here are three items to consider:
If your child is a minor, you retain control over your child’s financial and medical decisions. Once your child turns 18, things change. At that point, your child is an adult in the eyes of the law. You are no longer entitled to information about their health, education, or finances without your child’s consent. So how can they give you legal consent?
Once your child is an adult, they need the same documents as you – durable power of attorney and healthcare proxy. This designates an agent to make decisions on their behalf. Without these documents, family members have to petition the courts to receive guardianship. This is time consuming, expensive, and can be an emotionally draining process at a time when you may least need it.
You can find downloadable forms online, but we recommend meeting with an attorney to execute these documents to ensure accuracy. For instance, an overlooked part of the healthcare proxy is the HIPAA release. The HIPAA laws unfortunately have made health care providers paranoid about sharing information with health care agents for fear of violating the law. Therefore, healthcare agents are denied the necessary medical information to make decisions. These documents are relatively straightforward and inexpensive to draft.
Have a discussion with your child to find out if they have these documents in place. If they don’t, encourage them to meet with an attorney (which you may need to pay) to execute these legal documents. We all hope for the best, but must plan for the worst.