It’s that time of year! Young adults all over the country are moving on to the next step of their lives. It might be a job, or it might be college. We moved one two weeks ago, I have one moving next week, and another one moving in about a month. This is a good time to review the legal documents that your young adult should have. This will make everyone’s life easier
if when they need help with various different legal and medical situations that will come up.
FULL DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY. THIS ARTICLE IS DESIGNED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES AND IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE FOR YOUR SPECIFIC SITUATION. DO ADDITIONAL RESEARCH YOURSELF, AND FOLLOW UP WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISORS, IF NECESSARY.
Where To Get These Documents
There are a number of places to obtain these documents. Your installation’s legal office should be able to help, if that is convenient for you. Many states have these forms available online by searching the name of the state and the name of the form. There are online resources such as Mama Bear Legal Forms – I have not used them, or vetted them, so this is not an endorsement.
Where To Keep These Documents
Your best bet is to keep copies of these documents in a wide variety of places, both physical and electronic. Uploading them to online email, Dropbox, or other online storage. You can also upload copies on to tiny thumb drive for your child to attach to their keychain. Both parent and child should keep a physical copy available. Your child may want to store their physical copy in their “go bag,” the bag their roommate or friend will grab it they are hospitalized or need to quarantine. Store them as many places as you can think so you can access them in a pinch. Be sure to keep a copy in your emergency binder.
Powers of Attorney
Just like spouses, parents need powers of attorney to help their young adults with any legal and financial issues. It’d be nice if a general power of attorney would work, and it will cover some situations. But sometimes you need specific powers of attorney. Many companies want a specific power of attorney, sometimes on their own form.
For example, if you bank with USAA, your access to your young adult’s account ended when they turned 18. You’ll need USAA’s specific form, to be returned following the instructions (snail mail or fax.) In my experience, they would not talk to me until the form was received and processed. You definitely don’t want to be doing that in a time-sensitive situation.
Health Care Forms
So, there’s a lot of confusion and misuse of the terms regarding health care forms. I’ve tried to distill this to its most basic form. In general, you’re looking for permission to access information in a regular medical situation, and permission to make decisions in more serious medical decisions.
Keep in mind that sometimes the various medical documents are combined into hybrid forms, such as an advance medical directive that also states your wishes.
If you find it confusing, there are a million resources on the internet to learn more. I encourage you to do some more research. Have your young adult do some research, too – these are their decisions and they should be informed ones.
Healthcare providers can not share patient information with anyone, even their parents, without their consent. This can be a problem if your child is too sick to talk to you, or in surgery, or otherwise can’t communicate their situation to you or their permission to the medical staff. A HIPAA authorization should help in this situation.
A HIPAA authorization can exclude certain types of information such as mental health, communicable disease, or drug/alcohol treatment, if so desired by the grantor.
In a perfect world, your young adult will have a HIPAA authorization on file with the specific medical providers with whom they want you to be able to talk. In reality, a blanket authorization will hopefully work if they’re in an unexpected location or treatment facility.
Advance Medical Directives
There are two types of advance medical directives: a living will, and a Health Care Power of Attorney. A living will specifies wishes. A Health Care Power of Attorney gives someone the power to make decisions. A Health Care Power of Attorney can also be called a Health Care Proxy or a Durable Medical Power of Attorney. Often these two documents are combined.
There’s a great document called Five Wishes that serves as a living will and also as a Health Care Power of Attorney. Its format is valid in most states, though a few may require a notary. You’ll have to go to the hosting website, FiveWishes.org, to verify which states accept this document at the current time. At the Five Wishes website, you can also purchase a fillable copy, or different languages. The FiveWishes.org website also includes a free resource for how to think and talk about the hard topics that are included in a Health Care Power of Attorney.
While not technically a legal document, access to Tricare can be helpful. Your young adult can call Tricare and have you listed as their representative. This will help if you’re the one who is trying to sort out why a claim wasn’t paid, or tracking down authorization for a procedure.
We have not done this – yet (this week, it is on the list) – but I have reports that this is not hard to do.
There is a lot to do in the weeks leading up to a move, and sometimes it seems overwhelming. But it’s more overwhelming to be trying to get medical information if your young adult is in a hospital five states away, or to try to navigate an insurance problem with an hour wait for an agent and your child on a three-way call in between classes. This is definitely one of those situations where the little extra effort upfront will pay off. Either it will ensure that you don’t ever need the forms, or it will make your life a lot easier if you do need them.
I’d love to hear about your experiences, recommendations, and questions about this subject!