It was a proud moment for the members of Mansfield’s largest ever graduating class. Each of them walked across the stage of the to receive their diplomas -- and thunderous applause from family and friends. My wife and I were there cheering one of our boys and the conversation we shared with other parents was about times past.
“Remember when we came here direct from the Little League fields so we could watch the kids perform in the Jordan Jackson band? They were so tiny then,” she said.
But here we were a dozen years later watching our “kids” walk off the stage into adulthood. Where did the time go?
For parents of young adults, it may come as a surprise to learn that once our children become legal adults at age 18, they and they alone are responsible for making their own medical and financial decisions. This means that if your son or daughter has an accident or is unable to make decisions about his care, you would be powerless to help – even as parents.
Helping with Health Care Decisions:
It’s every parent’s nightmare. You might be informed that your child had an accident and is in the hospital, but legally, you cannot get any information about your child’s condition or treatment. As a dad, I can’t imagine a situation that would produce stronger feelings of helplessness and frustration.
So, what’s a parent to do? The first step is to have an adult conversation with your adult child. Explain that in the event of a medical emergency you would be unable to help unless you are given prior permission.
According to Easton attorney Karen McSherry, “A properly executed health care proxy and durable power of attorney grants a parent authorization to make health care decisions if your child is incapacitated, and grants you access to your child’s medical records so you can have discussions with doctors and insurance companies.”
When you speak with your adult child, you should agree in advance how and why such documents would be used. Your son or daughter should also know that they remain in charge of their own affairs since the documents can be revoked at a later date.
Without prior approval, the only other option for parents of an incapacitated adult child is to petition the probate court for guardianship. This is often a long and expensive process that only gives you the ability to help once the court appoints you as guardian.
Helping with Financial Decisions:
Before we know it, the summer will be over and many of these recent high school grads will be heading off to college. Hopefully, we won’t see them on TV at the big game holding a sign that reads, “Hi Dad, send money!” But if your student needs help with banking, financial aid, or has a problem with his credit card while travelling overseas, for example, you’ll be unable to help unless you have a durable power of attorney.
According to McSherry, “Properly drafted documents will give parents peace of mind because they know they’ll be able to help with ordinary transactions, plus deal with financial and medical emergencies.”
So, while your kids are still living under your roof, take some time to talk with them about these important matters. Before your son or daughter heads off for school and beyond, visit your local attorney to discuss your specific situation. Better safe than sorry.
About this column: Steve Davis is a local CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ who has been helping clients for more than twenty years. You can find out more about Steve and his company, Davis Financial at www.talkwithdavis.com
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
Securities offered through LPL Financial Member FINRA/SIPC