Young Adult Law

Four Legal Tools to Help Young Adults Starting Out

May 4, 2018

By Atty. Anne R. Tessier

Your child has just turned 18 and is ready to move out on her own or head off to college. As a parent, you have always cared for her, made doctor’s appointments, and helped with school. Now that your child has turned 18, you want to continue to help and be there when she needs you. What can you do as your child becomes an adult to ensure that you are able to continue to help when he or she needs you most?

When we hear the phrase “Estate Planning” we usually think of older adults managing wealth they have accumulated over the years. We often associate estate planning with elder law and aging, as well as protecting assets for our families. Although estate planning is important as we age, it is also important for those who are just starting out. We all want to know that someone we trust is there to make decisions for us if we get sick or injured and cannot make decisions for ourselves. With a little planning, your child can put together a plan to do just that.

Medical Directive The first step in putting a plan together is to talk with your child about what is important to him or her if something happens and they need medical treatment. How does your child feel about medical treatment and what are their wishes? Your son or daughter can put those wishes into writing with a Medical Directive. Although a Medical Directive is not legally binding in Massachusetts, it is an important tool because it gives the guidance doctors and agents need to help ensure that they are making decisions that are important to your child.

Health Care Proxy. Now that you have an idea of how your child feels about medical treatment, the next step is to talk about who they trust to make medical decisions for them if they cannot. A Health Care Proxy is a legally enforceable document that allows you to name an agent to act on your behalf when you are unable to make or communicate your own decisions.

HIPAA Waiver. In addition to a Medical Directive and Health Care Proxy, it is a good idea to give your Health Care agent permission to access to your medical information to ensure your needs are taken care of. The Health Insurance Portability Assurance Authorization (HIPAA) waiver notifies your doctor and other medical providers that you have authorized the disclosure of medical information to those who are named in the document.

Power of Attorney. Finally, as a practical matter your child may also wish to consider naming an agent to act on their behalf to help manage their property, such as bank accounts and credit cards, especially in the event that they are injured or sick. A Power of Attorney authorizes someone you trust to do just that.

When your child turns 18, it is a good opportunity to talk with them about what is important to them if something unexpected should happen. Your estate planning attorney can help you decide which documents are right for you and your family. With the right plan in place, you can be there when your young adult needs you most.

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