By Strich Law Firm, Jul 14 2017 04:24PM
Many parents wish to remain involved in the medical and financial decisions of their children after they turn 18. However, once a child reaches the age of majority, he or she becomes a legal adult with new rights to control their private property and medical care. Parents are prevented from accessing their health care information and financial accounts unless they are given legal permission, and it can become very costly and time-consuming for them to help in times of need. Normal children can provide permission with a properly drafted power of attorney to their parents. While such a power of attorney is the best way to accomplish getting needed information and decision making power, a young adult may not want to grant such broad powers.
Parents of disabled children should file for guardianship to continue to manage their disabled child’s personal property and medical care after they turn 18. Disabled children with mental limitations cannot sign a power of attorney or health care proxy because they do not have capacity. While able-bodied children likely do not require this same level of care, there are a number of important steps they can take to ensure that they can receive parental help when needed.
The health records of a child become private under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) when the child turns 18. Information regarding their medical history, current conditions, and future health care cannot be accessed by a parent unless a HIPAA release form is signed. The young adult can choose to sign the waiver on a case by case basis. This form gives a parent access to the child’s private medical information and must be signed by the child voluntarily. If a child is incapacitated before this form is signed, parents cannot easily receive information about their child’s medical state. Even if the young adult has signed a HIPPA release, the parent cannot make medical decisions for the child without a health care proxy (a power of attorney limited to health care decisions) or a full power of attorney. Becoming a health care proxy with a HIPAA release form allows parents to continue to support their children in times of emergency or even if the child does not have the privacy to make medical arrangements.
If a young adult is hesitant to grant a health care proxy or power of attorney, they can make it conditional on the young adult’s disability as defined by the state of their residence. The difficulty with this option is that the parent’s will have to prove disability to the health provider’s satisfaction, though there are times the disability is self-evident.
A child’s finances also become private when they turn 18. To give a parent access to their accounts, a child can grant them a durable power of attorney. A durable power of attorney allows an appointed individual access to the financial accounts of another when they are incapacitated or when other circumstances, such as traveling, prevent them from handling the accounts themselves. In the alternative, the parent can be listed on the young adult’s accounts as a joint account owner.
In the tragedy that a child predeceases his/her parents, their funds may be subject to probate and will likely be passed on to their heirs. A Will grants a child greater control over to whom their property is given and helps parents avoid making difficult decisions in times of grief. Parents should strongly consider how a health care proxy and/or durable power of attorney and Will can better prepare them to help their children after their child is over 18.
Call us at 609-924-2900 if you have a possible case.
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