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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A Discussion Every Parent Needs to Have with Their 18 Year-Old

By John Wood, JD and Vince Auricchio, JD

Your daughter or son has just turned 18 and they are getting ready to head off to college or start a gap-year plan. Congratulations! They are taking those long-awaited first steps into the adult world. Of course, we still need to be there to give them a helping hand when the chips are down. The question is: “Will we be able to?”

The answer may very well be no, without the right legal documents in place. After all these years of raising them, in the matter of one day, the rights and responsibilities of adulthood are dumped on them whether they are ready or not. The parent’s ability to help them in many states is taken away on their 18th birthday. The good news is we can establish some of the ability to help them with a few basic documents.

A Health Care Power of Attorney is the first recommended document. Roughly a quarter of a million college-age Americans are hospitalized each year with non-lethal injuries so it is easy to see the need to be there in case of a medical emergency. Many of us do not realize that one of your child’s new rights is privacy under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA). Incredible as it may seem, that means parents could be barred from receiving medical information or making decisions for their child, even if the child is unable to communicate or unconscious. Physicians will often try to identify a parent as a health care advocate, but that is not always an easy task in the modern world of blended families where parents and step-parents may not agree on a course of action when time is a factor. That is just the start of the problems parents can face. The insurance company may be unwilling to discuss treatment plans and coverage with the parent. Yes, they are still on your insurance and you are paying the bill, but your child is entitled to privacy under HIPPA. This can frustrate the parent’s ability to get a child the medical care they require. However, a Health Care Power of Attorney document can be drafted to have an immediate effect or only take effect upon the child’s incapacity.

The HIPPA Authorization is a basic document that, if properly drafted, allows you to get access to medical information and allows medical professionals to discuss health care issues with you. This document is often enough to work with an insurance company and a health care provider to assist in getting the bills paid.

A Durable Power of Attorney can assist with your child’s academic and financial life. Without this necessary document in place, it may be difficult or impossible to get information from their school or act on their behalf with student loan lenders, checking accounts, credit cards, or even landlords. You may find this document becomes necessary when your daughter or son spends a semester abroad, and when not all emergencies are medical. With a Durable Power of Attorney in place, you would be able to wire money out of your child’s accounts, pay bills, and manage their affairs for them in their absence as well as sign necessary legal documents for them should the need arise. This document may also be drafted to have an immediate effect or only take effect upon the child’s incapacity.

A FERPA Release is a basic document, typically one page, and as we saw with HIPPA regulations, your child has privacy rights that are beyond what you might realize or expect. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prevents parents from receiving information from the school. A properly drafted FERPA Release allows school officials to discuss information with you such as grades, financial accounts, and healthcare information. Some schools may have their own form or an online portal that allows for completion of the FERPA Release.

One last document you may wish to consider is a Last Will and Testament. It is the last thing we want to contemplate, and Goodness forbid it becomes necessary, but in our modern age even an 18-year-old may have a variety of “properties” that need to be managed. The Will can designate who can manage or close such things as bank accounts, social media accounts, gaming accounts and email accounts.

Sometimes we see situations where there is a strained relationship between children and parents and as unfortunate as these situations are, they don’t alleviate the need for someone to be able to speak for this young adult should they be unable to. Fortunately, these documents can be drafted to allow another responsible adult to act on their behalf should the need arise.

Although difficult to think about this type of planning in the exciting time leading up to the start of your child’s new life, but it remains important. A little planning today can reduce a lot of stress during difficult times and allow you to think and act in your child’s best interest in a timely manner when minutes and seconds may count.

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About the authors:

John Wood and Vincent Auricchio are both DePaul college of law graduates that where admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1997. Recently Vince and John have started working together to provide estate planning services through Grant Park Legal Advisors LLC. John’s background of over 20 years in wealth management and Vince’s over 20 years of active practice combined to create a unique skill set that benefits clients in the areas of Estate Planning, Real Estate and Business Law. They may be contacted at 312-392-0310 or info@grantparklaw.com. Grant Park Law.Com

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