Healthcare Power of Attorney
In addition to having a signed HIPAA authorization, we also encourage you to have a signed Healthcare Power of Attorney naming you as your child’s “medical agent.” If your child does become unconscious or incapacitated, the Healthcare Power of Attorney gives you the ability to view his or her medical records and make informed decisions on his/her behalf. Without this document (or a court-appointed guardianship), healthcare decisions regarding your child’s diagnosis and treatment are solely in the hands of healthcare practitioners. “While this is not always a bad thing, a physician’s primary duty is to keep the patient alive,” says Leonard. “So, a healthcare provider might not pursue a risky or experimental course of treatment at the risk of exposure to liability.”
General Durable Power of Attorney
The General Durable Power of Attorney authorizes you to make financial decisions on your child’s behalf should they not be able to do so on their own. This would allow you to manage bank accounts, pay bills, sign tax returns, apply for government benefits, break or apply for a lease, and conduct similar activities for your child’s financial and legal affairs.
Leonard suggests some important things parents need to remember about all of these documents:
- Update these forms yearly. The institutions where you would most likely use these documents — like hospitals and banks — might refuse to honor them if they are outdated.
- These documents can be revoked at any time by your adult child, either orally or in writing. Your adult child retains control of the ongoing validity of these documents.
- For adult children attending college at an out-of-state university, parents will want to execute separate documents in both the student’s home state and college state. These “worst-case scenario” documents will probably never have to be used. But having them in place will give you great peace of mind while your child is away at school.