01 Jun What If?…. Something Every Parent Should Know.
Can you imagine sending your child off to college, and they have some sort of accident? You call the hospital in a panic, which could be hours away if not a flight, and the first question they ask is “is he over 18?”, you answer “yes” and they practically hang up on you. They say that they legally cannot give you any information. Not one word.
Well, this happened to me.
Fortunately, I had attended an event where an attorney friend of mine was presenting tips on estate planning, and one of them was about this type of situation and honestly, I was horrified. When my oldest turned 18, I had her draft the documents I would need to be able to access medical information and make decisions for him in case, God forbid, he couldn’t.
I filed the documents with the university health services, and thought I was done. I hadn’t considered that emergency room visits don’t always happen during business hours, and fortunately, I have a home office equipped with a fax machine and scanner so I was able to send the docs to the hospital and get the information I needed to talk with the doctors. Most importantly, I learned he was going to be fine.
Since then and as a mother of 2 young men, I have had to use these documents 3 times and I keep them on my phone.
I’ve created a brief Q&A, citing Jennifer Taddeo who is an Estate Attorney and Partner at Conn Kavanaugh in Boston, MA to answer a few frequently asked questions:
Q: What are the documents I need, and what do they do?
A: For most young adults – those ages 18 to about 24 – who do not have children, are not married, and do not own real estate or significant financial assets, a durable power of attorney and a health care proxy, HIPAA authorization and living will are often sufficient. A durable power of attorney gives another person, the Attorney-in-Fact, the right to make business or financial decisions for another person. A health care proxy, HIPAA authorization and living will, taken together, allow you to name a person, a Health Care Agent, to get information and make health care decisions on your behalf.
Q: Are the documents state-specific?
A: Yes, they absolutely are. Therefore you want to make sure that you have the right ones in place and that they are executed appropriately, which means signed with the appropriate legal formalities, which could mean witnessing, being notarized, or both, and it varies from document to document and from state to state.
Q: Why can’t I just find them on the internet and download them, or use an online service?
A: People sometimes decide that their own situation is “simple” and are tempted to download their own documents from the internet. But without the guidance of an attorney experienced in estate planning in your state, the right documents may not be put in place, the right provisions may not be included in the documents, and the documents may not be executed in a way that makes them legally enforceable. Unfortunately, people who don’t have the appropriate legal documents, or no documents at all, end up being the same people whose families end up paying estate planning attorneys significant amounts of money to try to fix the mistakes made.
Author: Linda Waters, Founder, Back to Business, LLC
Tel (508) 520-4100
Reference: Jennifer D. Taddeo, Partner, Conn Kavanaugh
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