When Your Child Turns 18 They Are Now a Legal Adult – Without These Docs You Can’t Make Decisions for Them in an Emergency

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Leaving the nest to pursue higher education is a momentous step in a young adult’s life. The thrill of new experiences, intellectual growth, and newfound independence is often at the forefront of college students’ minds. Yet, in the midst of this excitement, there exists a crucial but often overlooked aspect: the need for comprehensive healthcare planning. The combination of a HIPAA authorization, healthcare proxy, living will, and power of attorney forms a vital shield of protection for college students and other young adults, ensuring their well-being, autonomy, and peace of mind.

HIPAA Authorization

The HIPAA authorization, an acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is a legal document that permits designated individuals, often parents or guardians, to access a college student’s (or other young adult’s) private medical information. Once a person reaches the age of 18, their medical records are legally shielded from family members’ access without explicit permission. The HIPAA authorization acts as a bridge between privacy and the need for critical health-related communication. In a scenario where a college student is incapacitated due to illness or injury, the HIPAA authorization empowers their trusted family members or representatives to collaborate with healthcare providers, gather essential medical information, and make informed decisions about treatment options. It safeguards the student’s privacy while allowing their support system to actively participate in their healthcare journey.

Healthcare Proxy

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The Healthcare Proxy, also known as a Medical Power of Attorney or Advanced Directive, is a document that designates an individual to make medical decisions on behalf of young person if they are unable to do so themselves. A college student might find themselves in a situation where they cannot express their preferences due to an unforeseen medical event. The healthcare proxy steps in as their voice, ensuring that medical decisions align with the student’s values, beliefs, and wishes. Consider a case where a college student is involved in a car accident and is unconscious. The healthcare proxy, appointed based on the student’s prior wishes, can collaborate with medical professionals to make decisions about treatments and procedures. This grants peace of mind to both the student and their family, as they know that critical medical choices will be made according to the student’s desires.

Living Will

While contemplating end-of-life decisions might be unsettling, a Living Will is a compassionate gift a college student or young adult can give to their loved ones. This legal document outlines the individual’s preferences regarding medical interventions and end-of-life care. It removes the burden from family members who might otherwise have to make emotionally challenging decisions during a time of crisis. The transition to college marks a period of newfound independence, where legal and financial responsibilities often fall on the student’s shoulders.

Power of Attorney

However, life is unpredictable, and accidents or illnesses can strike at any time. A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal instrument that empowers a trusted person, often a parent or family member, to manage legal, financial and administrative matters on behalf of the student if they become incapacitated. Imagine a college student facing a severe medical condition that renders them unable to handle their finances or legal obligations. The designated Power of Attorney can step in, ensuring bills are paid, contracts are managed, and critical financial decisions are made with the student’s best interests in mind. The POA provides a safety net, allowing the student to focus on recovery while ensuring their affairs are managed competently.

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Empower and Protect Your Young Adult

The whirlwind of college life and exuberance of youth can distract students and other young adults from considering their vulnerability to unexpected health challenges. The quartet of a HIPAA Authorization, Healthcare Proxy, Living Will, and Power of Attorney stands as an indispensable fortress of protection for college students and others. These documents empower young people to maintain their privacy while enabling their loved ones to support their healthcare journey. They guarantee that medical decisions reflect the person’s wishes and values, even when they cannot express them directly. Moreover, these documents ensure that legal and financial matters are handled seamlessly during times of incapacitation. By embracing these legal instruments, college students in particular can embark on their academic journey with the assurance that their physical, emotional, and legal well-being is fortified against life’s uncertainties.

Marc Guertin is the principal at Marc Guertin, Attorney at Law, LLC in North Haven, Connecticut. Call/Text 203-500-0201 or email Marc@attorneymarc.com to schedule a complimentary consultation.

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