To all the parents who’ve just seen their child accept his or her high school diploma, congratulations! You’ve put in eighteen years of effort toward their achievements–full of both fun and frustration–and the time draws nearer for them to set off on their own. Yet still you wish to ensure them the best life possible, to protect them as you always have.
But before they leave your nest, whether to a distant college or even an apartment down the block, you must know that their departure will take with them many of the legal parental rights you held before they turned 18.
Under the law, a person’s eighteenth birthday is a stark dividing line: a child one day, an adult the next. The legal rights you held to access their health care, school, or banking records without their permission are yours no longer. Fortunately, there are steps you can take that will ensure your peace of mind and their safety as they venture out into the world:
Create an advance healthcare directive. In the event of accident or illness that results in your child’s incapacitation, you will require an advance healthcare directive if you wish to access their medical records or make medical decisions in their place. When the unexpected happens, this can be invaluable. Additionally, in order for medical professionals to share information with you, you must ask your child to sign a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) form–don’t be powerless should tragedy strike.
Use technology. Modern technology can sometimes cause more problems than it solves, but I’m happy to say this is not one such case. Smart phones–be they Android or iPhone–truly merit the name: rather than keep important medical documents such as those mentioned above in a crowded filing cabinet to be forgotten, an app called My HealthCare Wishes can give you copies of what you need, immediately as you need it. Released by the American Bar Association, the app allows you to store an advance directive and other important documents on a smartphone. The app comes in two versions: the Lite version stores a PDF version of an advance healthcare directive and HIPAA form; the Pro version ($3.99) provides more functionality, including the ability to email documents. The app is called My HealthCare Wishes and is available from the iPhone App Store or on Google Play for Android devices. There are also online solutions like DocuBank.com that store medical records and allows those to be accessed by medical professionals anywhere in the world.
Add an ICE app to your child’s phone. Though most modern smart phones now feature them as a default, be sure to install an ICE (In Case of Emergency) app to your child’s phone that lists your contact information and also create an ICE listing in his or her phone contacts with this information. Your child is much more likely to always have their phone with them than to carry a printed card or document and medical professionals will be able to contact you straight away.
For more information on protecting your family, call our office at (612) 206-3701 or fill out our contact form to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about this in a family estate planning consultation, where we can identify the best ways for you to ensure the security of your loved ones.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net