Do I Need Power of Attorney for My Young Adult Child?
In a recent episode of the medical drama “Chicago Med,” an 18-year-old patient decides to put off lifesaving cancer treatment against her concerned parents’ wishes.
Since the teen is an adult, doctors on the show must follow the law, respect her wish, and forgo treatment. To save their daughter’s life, her parents decide to apply for temporary power of attorney to permit doctors to treat their daughter, who needs surgery to survive.
Although a fictional portrayal, the drama does raise a legitimate real-life question: Do I need power of attorney for my unmarried adult child? Most estate planning attorneys recommend parents consider creating a power of attorney for their adult children for the reasons that follow.
Once the child reaches 18, he or she has the right to:
- Make his or her own medical decisions, even if that decision differs from what’s recommended by his or her doctors or parents; and
- Keep his or her medical information private, even from parents.
Help from the courts
A parent’s legal right to make medical decisions comes to an immediate end when the child reaches age 18, regardless of insurance coverage. However, if the child is deemed either mentally or physically unfit to make his or her own decision, parents may petition the court for guardianship or a temporary power of attorney. These options generally allow parents the legal authority to manage their child’s medical affairs and make decisions on his or her behalf. However, this can be a costly and time-consuming process.
Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare
A proactive option that some parents may wish to consider is to assist their child in creating a durable power of attorney for health care. This legal document allows the adult child to appoint a parent or another responsible individual the legal right to make healthcare decisions if he or she is unable to. This includes end-of-life wishes.
Under HIPAA rules, parents are no longer permitted to access an 18-year-old child’s records without written consent. A HIPAA release allows parents to access their child’s medical records and receive updates after age 18. A HIPAA release does not give parents the power to make medical decisions, but instead allows them access to their child’s medical records.
Help is available
The estate planning attorneys at O’Reilly Rancilio are available to answer your questions regarding power of attorney documents for young adults. For more information, please call 586-726-1000 or visit our website.