One of my clients called frantically last week, as their daughter, now in college, was taken to the hospital and they were having difficulty getting information about her condition, or even speaking to the doctors. Is this situation a rarity?
Many parents are surprised to learn once their child reaches the age of majority, eighteen in most states, the parent is no longer automatically considered to be the child’s legal representative for health care or banking purposes. Confidentiality laws intended to protect an adult’s privacy apply to your eighteen-year-old child. These laws can prevent your child’s doctor from telling you about your child’s condition, even in a medical emergency. Similar rules apply to bank account access and information.
To address this issue, it is critically important for children to execute both a Health Care Proxy and Durable Power of Attorney once they reach age 18. A Health Care Proxy allows for the appointment of a person chosen by your child to make medical decisions on his or her behalf. A Durable Power of Attorney allows for nomination of a trusted individual to handle financial matters for the child, including depositing checks, paying bills and managing bank accounts, if he or she is unable.
Without these important documents in place, court intervention could be necessary to make the kinds of decisions and take the sort of actions for your (young) adult children that you have always undertaken. Having your child sign a power of attorney and health care proxy can alleviate at least some part of the anxiety associated with college students’ return to classes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With a power of attorney that nominates parents, your child can be assured their parents can still act for them even during a pandemic crisis. Whether on campus or not, your child will be able to continue to rely on you to take care of his or her medical concerns and make crucial decisions about treatment.
Be Educated! Be Proactive!