Do you think as a parent, you should have the right to know what is going on medically with your adult child? The law does not agree!! Once your child turns eighteen, HIPAA laws apply, and you are not entitled to get information about his/her medical status, much less have the right to make any decisions about his/her care, unless there are written, legal medical directives in place, that say so. It makes no difference if they live in your house, are on your insurance, or if you are paying the bills!! The law does not make that distinction.
Medical Directives for College Students is Especially Important this Year
Medical directives have always been important, but this year more than ever – if your child, who is 18 years of age or older, gets sick, you are not legally allowed to have any input unless your child has designated it within properly drafted medical directives. If your child is in an accident, hospitalized, whether it be due to an accident, illness, or yes, contracting COVID-19, or any other reason, they must have directives in place in order for you, or anyone else, to get information about them.
What should your adult child have in place?
While they likely do not have a need for a full estate plan that may include a trust or will, they do need to have medical directives in place, and something that might allow someone to handle some basic financial issues.
HIPAA Release allows your adult child to designate who they would like to be able to get access to their medical information. For example, if he/she is in the hospital, who can call in and get an update from a nurse/doctor? This does not authorize anyone to make any decisions, just sets out a list of who is allowed to get information.
Medical Power of Attorney allows your adult child to designate who he/she would like to be able to make medical decisions on his/her behalf, if ever in a situation where he/she cannot make medical decisions for themself.
Living Will is designed for end of life decisions. This allows your adult child to set out how they would like medical decisions made in the event he/she were ever terminal, with no chance of recovery, and can no longer communicate their wishes in any other way.
Financial Power of Attorney allows your adult child to designate who he/she would like to manage financial matters in the event he/she were to be incapacitated (short-term or long-term). This would authorize named people to handle things like apartment rentals, housing documents, managing putting a hold on classes/scholarships, and student loan issues, to name a few.
Can online forms be used?
If your adult child is in college, it is likely their income, and yours, is paying tuition, housing, room, and board. There may not be much money to pay for legal documents but they are extremely important to have, especially given the health risks students are facing currently.
BE WARY OF ON-LINE OR PRE-PREPARED “CANNED” FORMS
As the parent of an incoming Freshman and as an attorney who truly cares about my clients, I caution you about using online medical directives. The reason is that these forms are designed to be sold in any state across the nation. That means important state-specific details may be left out. These may include statutory requirements such as required number of witnesses, notary, and more.
In Arizona, a HIPAA Release is required to be a separately written document, not just included as a paragraph in a medical power of attorney. Online forms likely do not include this.
There are a number of issues that standardized medical directive forms do not always address issues in the way you might like.
We often see standardized forms that state that hydration/fluids should be withheld if we are dealing with an end-of-life situation. While, off the cuff, that might seem like a natural position to take, what about the method for administering pain relief? If we do not authorize fluids, we are minimizing options for types of pain relief that we can use, and typically those that are stronger, and more effective when dealing with a more serious medical issue.
It is also important to note that Arizona allows us to address Mental Health issues – as a part of a Medical Power of Attorney – not every state does. The issue of mental health care is even more important now than ever before, and especially among young adults. You may not find the pre-prepared forms including that language or allowing for that type of assistance. While we may not think it is necessary, it is one of those issues that if it arises, it is really important to already have in place.
Do you think this doesn’t matter because your student is opting to stay home and take classes on line, or wait a year before starting college, or not attend school at all – WRONG!! All of these issues still apply, once they turn eighteen, regardless of where they live, or how they are taking classes. Something could happen right in your own living room, or while in town, driving home from work, or the store, the concepts and issues are the same.
How can an attorney help with Medical Directives?
There are a number of reasons to use an attorney as opposed to using standardized forms or on-line programs. You have the peace of mind of knowing the documents are correct, prepared in accordance with the state statutes, and will function when needed. That is really what we are looking for, something that will actually be accepted by the hospitals, doctors, universities, etc., when we actually need them.
Children of Divorced Parents
Another possible issue is especially true for children of divorced parents – it could conceivably be argued that if a parent “prints off” a form and instructs their adult child to sign it, whether or not they actually understand what they are signing, that there was some perceived “undue influence”. Meaning that if it is perceived that one parent was selected as the “first choice” in making medical decisions, and that was the parent that instructed the adult child to fill out the forms, or sign, that there was some force there and that the “child” had no real choice in the matter, and therefore the documents could be deemed ineffective.
It would be much less likely for that to be proven, if an independent attorney dealt directly with the student, can explain everything, separately, and be able then to attest to the fact that the student made decisions and signed their directives without input from a parent (even if mom/dad is paying for the documents).
Empowering Young Adults
This is also another great opportunity for these “children” to start that adulting thing – let them feel empowered to make decisions about their own lives and their futures. Let them realize that there is more to being an adult than getting a chance to vote and that it is a really good idea to get information and seek guidance from professionals.
Why choose The Parker Law Office, LLC in Chandler for Medical Directives?
Heather happens to be the mom of an incoming college freshman! Who better to help your student/young adult, than a parent who is in the same boat as you and is familiar with the minds of new adults. We make the process simple and really walk through this with your young adult child. Attorneys are not all stuffy and scary!! We want to make this process and smooth and understandable as possible. Our experience has been that these young adults really are interested in this process and eventually realize how important it is!!
We offer a college student package for just $395 – less than the cost of setting up your child’s dorm room, and much less than those parking passes!! We would be happy to work with your student to get that done before they leave!! We do need a little bit of turnaround time, so don’t delay!!
Contact us today for a complimentary consultation to discuss these issues and more at no cost to you!! (480) 264-5177, www.ParkerLawAZ.com or HP@ParkerLawAZ.com. We offer in-person, calls, or video appointments.
PARENTS – STAY TUNED FOR PART TWO NEXT WEEK – WHEN IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU!!