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Why 18-year-olds should have powers of attorney

When a young college student was studying abroad in Rome, he suffered a serious injury. According to the Chicago Tribune, the 20-year-old had to undergo several intense surgeries and remained hospitalized overseas. His parents flew to Italy, where they had to jump through hoops to make decisions regarding his care. Unfortunately, this is a reminder of the situation that many families in Florida and around the country could face. Putting the proper legal documents in place can ensure that a family does not have to get a court order to make medical decisions.

Forbes magazine has outlined the importance of several documents that every 18-year-old should sign, including a durable power of attorney for both property and health care matters. Once a child turns 18, parents typically lose their ability to decide medical care or money issues. If the child were to become seriously injured or incapacitated, the parents would have to go through court to gain the ability to make decisions.

Experts suggest several items for 18-year-olds to put in place, such as the following: 

  •        A living will: This will outline the child’s wishes regarding end-of-life care.
  •        HIPAA authorization: This can enable the child’s parents or other designated person to gain access to medical records.
  •        Health care power of attorney: This will ensure that the teen’s parents or other adult can make decisions regarding the child’s health should the situation demand it.
  •        Power of attorney: This appoints someone to manage any property or financial affairs.

In some situations where a teenager lacked these documents, parents will have to file paperwork to become the child’s legal guardian. A report in The Wall Street Journal urges parents to discuss estate planning with their teenagers. This can help avoid a potentially complex legal battle in the event of a serious incident. 

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