Young Adults are Still Adults: Helping Your Children Enact Important Legal Documents

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Published by Dan Morrison 

Over lunch recently with an attorney friend of mine, I was lamenting an age-old issue: I pay the bills for my college-age kids, but because they are over the age of 18, they must GIVE ME PERMISSION to see their school files, grades, etc. This is due to something called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

My wife and I have always made sure we had our children, upon reaching 18, sign a “HIPAA Right of Access” form. This form allows us to access their medical information should something happen to them – an important document, especially if they are away at college.

But, as we talked, my friend pointed out that an equally serious issue could arise with our 23-year-old son. He lives on his own, is employed full time and is unmarried. Should something happen to him, who would step in to help? We would, of course! But, we would not have any documentation or recognized right to do so. Our situation would be compounded because our son lives in another state. My friend further explained that it is no different than my 80-year-old parents having no legal standing to intercede on my behalf.

So, the moral of the story is this: As our children go off to college or set out on their own, they are real adults and, as such, should have the same legal documents we all should have in place. At a minimum, there are three:

  • Durable Power of Attorney – A document that allows a person to appoint a close friend or relative to oversee legal and financial matters on their behalf. This can be done for a specified period or when the person is incapacitated.
  • Medical Power of Attorney – Like a Durable Power of Attorney, a medical POA allows someone else to act on your behalf for medical situations. It also gives direction as to the level of care you wish to receive.
  • Will – While younger people haven’t had time to accumulate much in the way of assets, having a will would make the process of “cleaning up” his or her affairs much smoother, avoiding the need to involve the court. A young person is no different than anyone else. If they die without a will, the court must decide what happens to whatever assets they may possess.

In the end, helping young adults set the foundation for a strong financial future should include estate planning. Let us help your family pursue their goals, no matter their age. Download this free guide for tips on how Millennials can get started on the right path.

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