When you were a minor (under the age of 18), your parents were considered your legal guardians and were responsible for making all of your decisions for you. Now that you are an adult, their legal authority is very limited if not completely gone. Although this newly found freedom may sound exciting, there are a few things you need to consider:
- Access to medical information. As a legal adult, you are protected by the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). This means that your private medical information can only be disclosed to those individuals you have authorized. If you want your parents to continue having access to this information, you will need to have a HIPAA Authorization Form prepared appointing your parents, or anyone else you designate, as an Authorized Recipient.
- Medical decisions. Chances are, if something were to happen to you rendering you unable to make decisions, it would be your parents that you would rely on to make decisions about your medical treatment. As a minor, your parents automatically had that authority, but now that you are an adult, you must formally grant them this authority. This can be accomplished through the preparation of a Health Care Power of Attorney. Not only can you name someone to act on your behalf (an agent), but you can also provide some general guidelines regarding your healthcare wishes.
- Financial decisions. If you are planning on going away to college or spending any significant time away from home, having a Durable Financial Power of Attorney in place may be helpful to you. Up until now, if you needed a parent to make a withdrawal from a bank account, or sign something on your behalf, there was no need for any additional steps because they were your legal guardians. However, now, if you want them to continue providing the same services, you will have to grant them this authority through the Financial Power of Attorney.
- Managing your stuff when you die. You just turned 18, not 98, but now is a good time to begin some responsible habits and consider what will happen to your assets when you pass away, since no one knows when this will happen. You may think that you do not have any assets, but you actually do. In this digital age, each one of your social media accounts is considered an asset. What will happen to these accounts when you pass away? You also have tangible personal property, which might have more sentimental than financial value. The execution of a simple will or trust will allow you to dispose of your assets to whom you want in the manner you want, no matter their monetary value.
Now that you are an adult, it is time to start thinking like one. The first step is meeting with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure that you are properly protected now that it is your responsibility. We are here to help you navigate this next chapter in your life and ensure that you are protected for the future to come.