Turning 18 years old is one of life’s most exciting milestones. Finally free to make your own choices, entering adulthood is an exhilarating time in one’s life, filled with hope and a sense that anything is possible. Decisions that were left to your parents for your entire life are now yours and yours alone to make. With this freedom though comes tremendous responsibility and the decisions you make carry consequences. While the feeling of invincibility at this time of life is a universal one, the unfortunate reality is that at any time life can throw you a curve that puts you into a crisis situation. This could be a financial or health crisis or both, and, by definition, you often won’t see it coming. This is why we constantly stress the importance of having the proper paperwork in place in the event you are injured, become ill, or are otherwise incapacitated.
Worst Case Scenario
While uncomfortable to consider, the below scenarios are examples of why we highly recommend creating a plan once you enter legal adulthood:
- You are 19 years old and away at college, enjoying the freedom of being on your own for the first time in your life. Driving home from a holiday visit with your family, you are involved in a car accident that leaves you unconscious and in critical condition.
- You are a 22-years-old recent college graduate, on one last trip with friends. While riding jetskis on the lake, you get in an accident and are rushed to the hospital unconscious.
- As a 25-year-old, you are employed and have settled into your first apartment, living alone for the first time. After suffering a brain hemorrhage, you are put into a medically induced coma.
In each of these scenarios, your parents call the hospital and plead for details about your condition. “I’m sorry, but I am not authorized to provide you with any information or allow you to make any decisions.” Without the proper documents, legally, the hospital has no choice but to withhold any information because of your status as a legal adult, even if you are still covered under your parent’s insurance.
Three Critical Legal Documents for a Young Adult
It is highly prudent to consider the following three documents when you enter adulthood.
1. HIPAA Authorization Form
HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, exists for good reason; it is a federal law that safeguards who can access an adult’s private health data. In fact, healthcare providers are prohibited by law from revealing your health information and could face severe penalties if they violate HIPAA laws.
This illustrates why a HIPAA authorization, signed by you and naming your parents as an authorized recipient, is so critical. It gives your parents the ability to ask for and receive information from healthcare providers about your health status, progress, and treatment. This is particularly important in the event you are unconscious or incapacitated for a period of time. Without a HIPAA authorization in place, the only other way to obtain information regarding your child’s health would be to go to court.
2. Healthcare Power of Attorney (for Medical Decisions)
If you sign a Healthcare Power of Attorney naming your parents as your “medical agent,” they will have the ability to view your medical records and make informed medical decisions on your behalf. Without this document or a court-appointed guardianship, healthcare decisions concerning your diagnosis and treatment will be solely in the hands of healthcare providers. While this is not always a bad thing, a physician’s primary duty is to keep the patient alive. So, a healthcare provider might not pursue a risky or experimental course of treatment at the risk of exposure to liability.
3. General Durable Power of Attorney (for Financial Decisions)
If you were ever incapacitated, you would also benefit greatly from having a General Durable Power of Attorney in place, where your parents are named as the “agent” authorized to make financial decisions on your behalf. This would allow your parents, as the named agent, to manage bank accounts, pay bills, sign tax returns, apply for government benefits, break or apply for a lease, and conduct similar activities relating to your financial and legal affairs. Otherwise, your parents will not be able to assist in managing your financial affairs without a court-appointed conservatorship.
With all of these documents, there are things to consider that the team at Scott Bloom Law will help you with in order to develop the best, customized strategy for you going forward. While considering these matters can certainly leave you feeling uneasy and uncomfortable, they are the stark realities of adulthood and when completed, leave you and your family in a much better long-term situation.
The team at Scott Bloom Law is pleased to introduce our Young Adult Dependent Program, specifically developed to help you as you enter legal adulthood. Being prepared for any crises that may arise as you enter adulthood allows for peace of mind for you and your family. Having the proper paperwork in place now can help you avoid undue stress in the future should an unexpected crisis arise. Contact the team at Scott Bloom Law to schedule a free consultation and to find out how we can help you make the most of your independence.