Once your child turns 18, you and your partner are no longer legal representatives. There are two legal documents an adult child needs to make their own financial and healthcare decisions, an Advanced Directive and Power of Attorney. A South Florida Estate Planning Attorney can assist your child with these documents–learn what makes them so important.
1. Advance Directive
An Advance Directive, or Advance Healthcare Directive, is a legal document detailing a college student’s preferences and wishes if, for any reason, they cannot make healthcare decisions for themselves. This legal document ensures the person’s instructions are followed in the event of an acute or chronic illness or injury. Advance Healthcare Directives typically include wishes regarding resuscitative efforts, surgeries, blood transfusions, life support treatment, tissue and organ donation, palliative care, and other medical care.
The document is also known as a living will. It is designed to give the individual peace of mind knowing their specific healthcare wishes will be fulfilled. It also relieves the person’s family members, as they do not have to make medical decisions following a serious injury or illness. Family members who must make decisions for loved ones without Advance Directives frequently experience additional pain, stress, and anguish.
In addition to working with a South Florida Estate Planning Attorney to create this legal document, your college-age child might wish to consult a physician before making final medical decisions. Some of the most common decisions that can require consulting a medical professional include the following:
- Tube feeding
- Mechanical ventilation
- Tissue and organ donation
- Body donation to science
- Breathing machines and dialysis
- Palliative care, or comfort care
2. Power of Attorney
Another essential legal document for 18-year-olds is a Power of Attorney. This document designates someone to make decisions regarding the college student’s finances, healthcare, or property in the event of incapacitation. The POA is also known as a Healthcare Proxy, Representative, or Agent regarding medical decisions.
The designated person is a fiduciary and is responsible for making choices that are “fair” to the individual they are working for. Whether this agent is responsible for all of the person’s affairs or only some of them, they will be subject to civil lawsuits and possibly criminal charges if they ignore or otherwise violate the document’s terms.
When the person the agent represents passes, the POA becomes null and void. To ensure all wishes are carried out as instructed after the person’s death, they must create a living trust or last will.
A person designated with power of attorney can be anyone, though most people choose a trusted relative or friend.
Typical POA agents include:
- The person’s mother
- The person’s father
- The person’s sister, brother, or cousin
- The person’s daughter or son
- The person’s spouse
- The person’s close friend
College students can also designate one of their parents as their Durable Power of Attorney. A Durable POA has the authority to sign tax returns, access bank accounts, renew car registrations, and make other decisions on the student’s behalf. Incapacitation is not the only time a Durable POA makes decisions, as they also have this right if the student is out of the country for any reason, such as studying abroad. Adult children can restrict their Durable POA’s decision-making as they deem necessary. This is known as Limited Power of Attorney.
Other POA types include the Springing POA, which provides services immediately following the individual being declared physically incapacitated or mentally incompetent. Another type is the General Power of Attorney has a “broad” range of decision-making powers, including business interests, financial and business transactions, life insurance purchases, gift presentations, claim settlements, and professional help appointments.
How Are An Advance Directive and Power of Attorney Created?
To create an Advance Directive, two witnesses must complete the related healthcare form and have it signed. Neither of these witnesses can be the Power of Attorney. Most people have another relative or friend over age 18 sign the document and their lawyer. After the document has been signed, the person must make copies of their Power of Attorney and physician so both individuals can refer to the document as necessary.
To prepare a Power of Attorney document, the college-age child must procure a Power of Attorney letter from a reputable legal website in their state. Next, they fill in their name and address, as well as the name and address of their selected agent.
Depending on the state your child lives in or attends school in, one or both legal documents an adult child needs to authorize you to make medical and financial decisions on their behalf may need to be notarized by a notary public. And while having either or both documents prepared or reviewed by an attorney is not required, it is recommended. Working with a lawyer ensures the individual completely understands their state’s laws. The person can also ask questions about the documents and discuss other estate planning measures.
Talk to Your 18-Year-Old About These Documents Today
It is not uncommon for college students to think they’re too young to need Estate Planning, and creating Advance Directives and Power of Attorney documents are premature measures. As soon as any child turns 18, their parents can no longer legally make medical and financial decisions on their behalf. Discussing the legal documents an adult child needs with your now-adult child is not the most pleasant conversation you will ever have, but it is vital.
For assistance with an Advance Directive, Power of Attorney and all other legal documents an adult child needs and Estate Planning matters, contact Estate Planning Attorney Barry Siegel and the team at The Siegel Law Group. Our Boca Raton, Florida based law firm is here to help you navigate Estate Planning. Call (561) 955-8515 or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation.