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Modern Estate Planning Blog

Elder Law & Special Needs Planning

Sacramento Will Lawyer Explains 3 Legal Documents Every Graduating Senior Needs to Ensure Parents Can Intervene Medically On Their Behalf

June 14, 2010

It’s June and that means high school graduations.  It also means lots of new adults in our midst. As your child steps into adulthood you might not realize that as a parent you will be unable to help your child with banking or have access to help with their healthcare (even though you may still be paying for it!).

Because your child is a legal adult, HIPAA laws can prevent parents from making medical decisions on their child’s behalf. For that reason, parents of graduating seniors are urged to prepare ICE cards, an Advanced Healthcare Directive and a HIPAA Authorization to ensure they are consulted and actively involved in their child’s care should their child become incapacitated or seriously injured in an accident, or just need help navigating a healthcare claim with the insurance company.

Under current HIPAA laws, parents may be barred from making necessary medical and life-saving decisions on their child’s behalf without such documentation in place. Parents may further find themselves unable to obtain necessary medical records without an Advanced Healthcare Directive.

Most parents assume they can make medical decisions on their child’s behalf until they are legally married, but that is just not the case. The law can prevent parents from getting involved in the care of a child 18 or older without explicit permission through legal documentation.

Parents of graduating seniors need to complete the following documents which give them permission to intervene medically and make life-saving decisions on their child’s behalf:

  1. ICE Card- ICE stands for In Case Of Emergency and a card reflecting such should be kept in the child’s wallet listing the names of all approved emergency contacts, health insurance information and all known allergies. Tech savvy students can also complete ICE information using an iPhone app from LegalZoom.
  2. Advanced Healthcare Directive- Typically drafted by an attorney, an Advanced Healthcare Directive allows a young adult to appoint someone they trust (the parent) to be their healthcare agent should they wind up in a coma or become otherwise incapacitated in a serious accident. It also specifies the type of long-term care or life support the child would want should they become incapacitated or left in a permanent vegetative state.
  3. HIPAA Authorization- Also typically drafted by an attorney, a HIPAA Authorization allows the new adult to give permission to someone (the parent) to access their healthcare information including medical records, speak with doctors and insurance providers.

Without such directives in place, parents could be helpless spectators to their child’s care should they fall into a coma or become unable to speak for themselves. Fortunately, this situation is entirely avoidable.

And as always, make sure your new adult understands that all of these documents will need to be changed as his (and your) life changes . . . as he and those he cares about move, marry, have children, divorce, dies, and so on.

Of course if you need help putting such documents in place for your graduating senior, call me, you’re neighborhood Sacramento Will Lawyer at 916.241-9661 to receive a Peace of Mind Consultation ($750 value) at no charge. However, these appointments are limited to 10 a month so call today!

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