Over the last few years, if you have read any articles in this space about estate planning or have taken the steps to create your own estate plan, then you are probably aware of the importance of having a general durable power of attorney and a healthcare power of attorney in place. These are the documents used to delegate decision-making authority to another person over your personal/financial affairs and your healthcare/medical affairs, respectively. That delegation of authority is crucial if you are in an accident and become incapacitated or otherwise unavailable to make such important decisions.
For those clients who are about to see their children graduate from high school and head off to college this fall, there is another use for these documents that I want to highlight, and that is having your soon-to-be adult children sign their own set of powers of attorney. Once your children turn 18 years old, you (as the parent) technically do not have any legal authority over them. But practically speaking, most parents are still assisting their children financially and also with making important decisions after they turn 18 years old.
Therefore, having your “adult” children sign a general durable power of attorney and a healthcare power of attorney can give peace of mind to both parents and their children in the event that the child was in an accident or needs assistance while away from home at college, studying abroad, or even just living in a different city. At a minimum, having your children sign a healthcare privacy law authorization is crucial so that you (as the parent) can be assured of getting information from medical providers about your children’s status in the event of an accident resulting in some form of incapacity.
Logistically, there are a few extra parameters that we put in place when making arrangements to prepare powers of attorney for adult children. The first is to have access to and communicate directly with the child, because even through the parents are usually the ones who arrange for us to prepare these documents, the child technically becomes the client and is entitled to make his/her own decisions on the structure and nuances that go into the documents. Additionally, in the event that the child is concerned about signing such documents, we have other options to explore, like making the general durable of attorney specifically effective only upon the child being incapacitated (as opposed to being effective the moment it is signed), or appointing another trusted family member or friend to serve as agent if there is a strain in the parent-child relationship, or even putting an expiration mechanism into the documents relative to the parent’s authority.
If we can assist you with preparing powers of attorney for your adult children, please feel free to contact us.