With kids headed off to college in the next few weeks, we have had several clients call us asking about whether they need to prepare estate planning documents for their children. In particular, the clients are concerned about whether they should have their children sign powers of attorney for their children’s medical and financial decisions.
By law, Texas teenagers reach the age of majority at the age of 18. While parents sending those “adults” off to college still consider them to be their children, the law sees them differently. In particular, parents no longer have a default ability to make medical decisions for their children. If the parents receive a call from the local hospital in their child’s college town saying that the child had an accident, the hospital may refuse to acknowledge the parents’ ability to make medical decisions without a proper power of attorney.
A medical power of attorney allows someone to designate someone else to make medical or financial decisions for them if they become incapacitated. In the case of the clients who have called me recently, the college-aged children were designating their parents to make medical decisions for them in the event they were not able to do so. Additionally, those children signed documents authorizing their parents access to sensitive medical information that would ordinarily be covered by HIPAA restrictions.
The worst possible situation for a parent is to receive the call that their child is in the hospital while simultaneously being told that the hospital cannot discuss the child’s condition or recognize the parents’ authority to make decisions.
If you have questions regarding estate planning for your children, please contact Ford + Bergner LLP. We work with clients routinely to address these issues, and we would be happy to assist you!