Naomi Becker Collier, a partner in the Trusts and Estates & Elder Law practice, was quoted in Your Teen Magazine, “My Baby’s 18: What 18-Year-Olds Can Legally Do.” In the article, Collier recommends that a new 18-year-old should sign a durable power of attorney, a healthcare proxy, and at a minimum, a HIPAA release.
Trust and estates attorney Naomi Becker Collier of Pashman Stein Walder Hayden in New Jersey recommends that a new 18-year-old sign a durable power of attorney (appointing parents to act as their agent, allowing them to continue to assist with financial needs), a healthcare proxy (appointing parents to act on their behalf in healthcare matters as needed) and, at a minimum, a HIPAA release (legally necessary to allow medical professionals to speak to parents about their child’s care).
Though there are forms and templates available online, consider that there may be desired provisions that an experienced attorney can include in customized documents that won’t be available in an online form. In addition, engaging an attorney will “provide the child with an education and understanding of the documents that he or she is signing,” Collier says.
Most durable powers of attorney and health care proxies are effective upon signing (unless stated otherwise), so they should be put in place once a child has turned 18 or as soon after as possible, Collier adds.
Have your attorney keep on file a hard copy of each form, put your own hard copies in a fire-safe box at home, and email copies to all parties—including stepparents, if applicable—so they’re readily available. The last thing you want to be doing in an emergency situation far from home is gathering necessary documentation.
As for how to approach your child about these documents, an open and frank discussion is best, Collier says. “Presenting the issue to the child and encouraging discussion with a legal professional that can help them understand the documents and the power that they would be giving (and can ultimately take away from parents when and if the time is right) is a way to empower a child to take steps to protect [themselves] as an adult,” she says.
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