It seems like just yesterday your son or daughter was a toddler and you were beaming with pride as they took their first wobbly steps. You have been there for them as they had their first day of school, skinned their knee sliding into first base and learned how to ride a bicycle. You were there as they grew faster than you ever thought possible. Soon they were driving, as evidenced by a few extra gray hairs on your head. Now, they are reaching adulthood, their 18th birthday.
Of course, your love for them does not end upon their 18th birthday. However, the legal landscape does change a bit. Now they have achieved the age of majority and are legally adults. They can make their own decisions, even if you do not agree with them, and you do not have legal rights to make decisions for them. This can present difficulties, especially if they go away to college or travel abroad. They may have a car or other assets that they will need sold or managed in their absence. They may have health care issues. For example, Johnny is spending the summer travelling before starting school in August. He leaves his car parked in front of the house. A few days after Johnny leaves, his car gets towed because Johnny has several unpaid parking tickets he never took care of. You cannot get Johnny’s car from the impound lot because you are not the owner.
However, these problems can be avoided. Johnny can do a set of simple documents that will make things more convenient for both of you. These documents would include a Property Power of Attorney, a Health Care Power of Attorney, and a HIPAA Authorization form.
The Property Power of Attorney would allow you to make decisions about his property as his “agent.” This would allow you to retrieve the car. You also could sell the car if he needed extra cash for the trip. The Health Care Power of Attorney would allow you, as agent, to make health care decisions for Johnny in the event he is unable to make those decisions for himself. While a hospital may allow you to make decisions as his parent, they may be reluctant to do so, especially if his other parent is not present and in agreement. Finally, the HIPAA Authorization form allows you to access medical information about your child. Beginning in 2003, strict new regulations were put in place regarding the release of medical information. Hospitals and other health care providers face huge penalties if they release patient information to any unauthorized individual. With the HIPAA Authorization form, you can find out medical information about your child. This could be as simple as getting a copy of his vaccination record for school, or it could be needed for a more serious medical concern.
You cannot keep your son or daughter from growing up, having adventures, or even making mistakes. However, armed with a Property Power of Attorney, a Health Care Power of Attorney, and a HIPAA Authorization form, you can continue to be there for them as they head off into the adventure that is their life.
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