Our children tend to think they’re invincible, and that they’ve got it all figured out – particularly once they hit 18, right? While that milestone is exciting, it also exposes our adult children to a new set of dangers.
Consider the case of my nephew – while attending college in Pasadena, he was hit by a car while riding his bike and ended up in the hospital. Since he was 19 at the time, the hospital, citing HIPAA regulations, refused to release information about him to his parents. The well-intentioned but seemingly Draconian implications of this privacy law provide for only one exception concerning the release of one’s “personal health information”: parent-to-minor child. Consequently, although the application of it in my nephew’s case was harsh, it was proper under the law, since he was an “adult.”
Or what if an adult child becomes incapacitated – who has the right to handle their financial affairs during that period of incapacity?
The answer is frustratingly simple: unless one has the appropriate documents to avert it, an incapacitated adult (i.e., anyone over the age of 18) will be subjected to a conservatorship proceeding to empower someone to manage their financial and medical affairs. And while parents will most likely have the “inside track” in such a proceeding, judges are unpredictable. Furthermore, this type of proceeding is fraught with indignity, delay, publicity and expense.
Once again (see previous blogs), our maddening system has provided us with an easy “fix:” everyone over the age of 18 should be equipped with a simple combination of documents: a Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Purposes and an Advance Health Care Directive. This pair of documents serves to pre-ordain who will have the legal right to manage the finances of an incapacitated adult, as well as dictating how one should be treated by medical professionals and who has the right to receive one’s personal health information and to act as an incapacitated patient’s advocate.
As parents, we go to great lengths to protect our children; doesn’t it make sense to be sure that they’re protected in the event of an accident? It’s truly remarkable how much aggravation this critical pair of documents can spare the parents of adult children – do your children as well as yourselves a huge favor by helping them execute these two documents. Naturally, we hope they’ll never need them, but the peace of mind you’ll realize is priceless.