Most people don’t think about an “estate plan” until they are well in to adulthood. However, planning for unknown events is something that should be considered as young as age eighteen. Once a person turns18, there is no one with legal authority to act on his or her behalf if the young person should become incapacitated, either temporarily or permanently. A Durable (financial) Power of Attorney as well as a Health Care Power of Attorney would allow that young adult to designate the person or persons that he or she wants to have decision making ability in the event of incapacity. Both an Advanced Directive (Living Will) and a HIPAA Release may also be helpful.
I encourage my clients with children turning eighteen and/or going off to college to talk to their children about coming in to execute at a minimum, a Health Care Power of Attorney. In addition, if that young adult already has acquired assets through savings, inheritance or gifts, a Will and a Durable (financial) Power of Attorney may also be appropriate.
A Health Care Power of Attorney allows the persons named to act on your behalf and make all medical decisions for you, if you are incapacitated and unable to do so. This document only goes into effect if you cannot act on your own. You can give your health care agent as much additional guidance as you would like in making decisions on your behalf by adding additional instructive or restrictive language. If you have certain ideas and you express them to the attorney, they can be incorporated into the document in the proper language. Also, you can express your desire about autopsy, organ donation, donation of body for anatomical study, burial versus cremation and any other medical related concerns. By executing this document, you are controlling the decision in advance rather than leaving it for someone else to decide.
A Living Will, or an Advance Directive, is document that states an affirmative declaration that you do not want artificial life support, which may include nutrition and hydration, if you are for example, in a persistent vegetative state or long term coma. Some clients choose not to sign an Advanced Directive but instead give the power to make end of life decisions to their Health Care Agent under the Health Care Power of Attorney.
A general HIPAA Release allows the named person to access your health information and speak to your doctors currently. This can assist in requesting copies of medical records, speaking with your physician and dealing with insurance claims. This document does not give anyone current authority to make decisions on your behalf, only to access your records and communicate with your health care providers. This can be very helpful to parents who are paying medical bills and are providing insurance to their young adults.
A Durable Power of Attorney is a document that allows another person to act for you with regard to financial transactions. This can be a “springing” power of attorney which means it only goes in to effect if you are incapacitated at some future time or it can be “current” which means it is effective immediately. This can be helpful if you need someone to do banking for you or to transact any kind of financial business for you.
The attorneys at Black, Slaughter & Black, P.A. can discuss all of these issues with you and help you determine what is best in your individual situation.