It is graduation season and for the first time in their lives your children are going to have to live on their own. No doubt you’ll be there to guide them when they need it, but—let’s face it—your children are now young adults. They are about to make the harsh transition into the real world.
Before you send them off, make sure that you do it right. What do I mean? Your children, whether you want to admit it or not, are full-fledged adults at this point. As soon as they turned 18, you ceased to be their guardian under the law. Gone are the days of when you were able to speak with their doctors and teachers; you will no longer be allowed to make medical decisions for them. Wait! Are you telling me that I will no longer be informed if my child is ill? Unfortunately, that’s true, as an 18 year old, your child must provide permission for you to be informed of any medical condition as you are no longer their natural guardians.
As your child heads off to college, you were prepared for their new independence – you suspected that your ability to ‘help’ them make good decisions would be impaired but you never imagined that should your son or daughter find themselves incapacitated and in a hospital, you may not find out until days later.
Once you recover from your initial panic, keep in mind that with proper estate planning you can ensure that communicate with your child’s doctors is unimpeded, that you can be informed about their medical condition, and you can make health care decisions on their behalf when they cannot make those decisions for themselves.
For those of you that may be asking yourselves, does this really happen, let me assure you, yes, it does happen and on a daily basis. Consider the following real life example.
A college freshman walks into a hospital emergency room at midnight and tells medical personnel that she fears that she is going to harm herself. The stress of college, growing pains, and life had gotten the best of her. She is admitted to the ER’s psychiatric ward until a physician can see her. Twelve hours later, she calls her parents, but only after she consults with a nurse as to whether or not she wants to tell them anything about her ordeal.[i]
Every day, young adults are checked into an emergency room without their parents’ knowledge. Even when parents are notified, they are not allowed much detail over the phone. If their child is hours away, a parent’s ability to speak with doctors and advocate on their child’s behalf is further frustrated. This can lead to tragic results both for the parent and the child, who likely wants nothing more than to have his loved ones there to advocate on his behalf.
This scenario need not be inevitable but it does require a plan. Speak with experienced estate planning attorney today to learn what legal documents you can put in place to ensure that should tragedy ever strike, you are prepared and empowered to take care of your son or daughter.