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Why at 18 You Need an Estate Plan

by | Feb 28, 2018 | Firm News |

It is very sad, but it has also been reassuring how we have seen our young adults step up to speak and present their views, hopes and dreams for their future in light of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their families, the entire student body, and our nation. I think we will all agree; our generation of young adults is becoming older than their years with the challenges they face.

In the past, the main concern for many 18-year old’s and their families is where they will be going to college, applying for scholarships, and getting the best catering for their graduation party. The last thing on most parents’ minds when their child turns 18 is establishing an estate plan for their child. However, there are many benefits for every legal adult having what is known as a Personal Protection Plan (PPP).

Children who reach age 18 are no longer minors in the eyes of the law. Becoming a legal adult has several repercussions for these youths. For example, let’s say your child gets sick at college. While you may expect to be contacted to help direct the care options for your child, this may well not happen. Once children turn 18, they have rights under HIPAA to keep their medical information private. HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) is United States legislation that provides data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information. In their PPA, they would sign a HIPAA Authorization giving their consent for their parents to have access to their medical records.

If, due to an injury, your child becomes incapacitated, and they haven’t signed an Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD), also known as a Medical Power Of Attorney, which authorizes parents to make medical decisions on behalf of their children, as well as a HIPAA Authorization, then you as a parent would not be able to make decisions about your children’s health care.

It is situations like these in which a PPP for your child will come in handy. With a PPP, your child will sign an AHCD, under which they will assign agents to make their health care decisions if they are incapacitated. Also, they’ll sign a HIPAA Authorization that will allow their protected medical information to be released to you so you can make those important health care decisions under the AHCD.

Another document that is included in a PPP is a General Durable Power Of Attorney (GDPOA). The GDPOA functions very similarly to the AHCD in that this document appoints agents to take care of your child’s financial assets, such as their bank accounts or any rental agreements they may have.

The final document included in a PPP is a Last Will and Testament. In this document, your children can direct how they want their “stuff” (i.e., personal assets) distributed after their deaths. Your children can also specify their desires regarding how they want their remains to be handled after death (e.g., funeral, cremation, etc.).

While it’s likely not a priority on anyone’s list of things to do right after turning 18 and graduating high school, a PPP offers peace of mind both to the young adult/graduate and their parents. My assistant Monica, age 21, is one of the only people she knows in her peer group who has a PPP, but she is very glad she does and highly recommends that her contemporaries get one, as well. A PPP may well be the best graduation/18th birthday present parents can give their children.

Reference Article by Lauren Keenan Rote, May 2014.