CGA Law News & Blog

Congratulations to Your Graduate! Now It Is Time to Protect Your Young Adult

access_time Posted on: June 3rd, 2024

The excitement of graduation is unparalleled. As you and your child embark on the journey of their future, it is crucial to be ready for surprises and adversity. Planning can help you and your graduate prepare for the substantial changes that come with early adulthood. While you and your child have many tasks to accomplish, there is one more thing to do—ask your child to sign both a Durable Power of Attorney and an Advance Healthcare Directive.

Confidentiality laws—like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (more commonly known as “HIPAA”) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) protect your young adult’s privacy. At the same time, they may prohibit you, their parent, from acting on their behalf and accessing critical financial and healthcare information—even during medical emergencies. If a young adult is in an accident and becomes disabled, even temporarily, a parent might need court approval to act on his or her behalf. In other words, your ability to make decisions for your child may be delayed by burdensome court proceedings. The risk is real. Accidents are the leading cause of death for young adults, and a quarter-million Americans between 18 and 25 are hospitalized with nonlethal injuries each year.

A Durable Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive can be a lifeline for your child.  These two estate planning documents, often associated with older individuals, are equally as crucial for younger adults. They allow your child to designate an “agent”, usually one or both parents, to make informed decisions on their behalf. For instance, if your child is studying abroad and falls ill, the agent can make healthcare decisions. Without these documents, parents no longer have the authority to make healthcare decisions or even manage money for their children after they turn 18. Even if parents pay for tuition or provide health insurance, privacy laws still prevent them from accessing critical information and making decisions on their child’s behalf.

Having your child sign an Advance Healthcare Directive before they go away to college or leave home can provide reassurance and security for both of you. This document includes a Healthcare Power of Attorney, which authorizes you to make healthcare decisions on their behalf and may give you access to their healthcare information.

In addition to a Healthcare Power of Attorney, consider having your child sign a Durable Power of Attorney. While a Healthcare Power of Attorney deals with medical decisions, a Durable Power of Attorney can allow you to handle financial and legal matters for your child.

You can request that these documents be prepared on your child’s behalf. However, your child will still need to review, understand, and sign them. A meeting to review and execute these documents can take as little as fifteen minutes. During this meeting, an attorney will explain the documents and their implications, and your child can ask any questions they may have before signing.

After what (sometimes) seems like endless years spent raising a child, their adulthood—and all the rights that go with it—may creep up suddenly. As much as you hope you have prepared them to care for themselves, you may still be their fallback for emergencies. Getting the necessary authority to play that role can be a rite of passage and a learning experience for both parent and child. Take time today to protect you and your child in the future.

If you would like more information about these documents, my recently published book, The S.M.A.R.T. Estate Plan, highlights them and other important steps you should take when your child turns 18. It provides practical advice and real-life examples to help you navigate this important transition in your child’s life.

If you have questions or would like assistance in preparing these documents, please do not hesitate to contact any of any of our estate planning attorneys by filling out our Contact Us Form or by calling 717-848-4900. We are here to help protect your child’s future.

CGA Law Firm Attorney Jeff Rehmeyer II

Jeffrey L. Rehmeyer II

Shareholder | Attorney

Jeffrey Rehmeyer II was CGA Law Firm’s President for many years. He is fueled by a belief that planning today creates protection for businesses and families tomorrow. Jeff forms relationships with his clients, which include large and small businesses, municipalities, families and individuals. His work begins by developing an understanding of their situation, actual or anticipated challenges, and goals. Jeff sees the client first, not the case. Over the course of his legal career, Jeff has led many clients through different legal needs, from business to family to estate and individual, which gives his clients a remarkable advantage through a multi-faceted approach to the law and legal issues.

Read Jeff’s Bio Page in full HERE.