They Grow Up Fast: Making an Estate Plan for a Child Who Is Coming of Age

Parents feel many conflicting emotions on their children’s 18th birthdays. The young people you raised will be moving on—out of the house, on to college, or even raising children of their own. As they navigate young adulthood, your children will still need your advice and assistance—but without certain documents, you may not legally be able to give it to them.

Estate Planning for Children Who Have Reached the Age of Majority

Like any adult, children who have reached age 18 should have legally enforceable instructions in place in the event of their death, but also in the event of their incapacitation.

The types of estate planning documents children may need when they come of age include:

  • Health Care Proxy. A Health Care Proxy, called a Designation of Health Care Surrogate in Florida, will give you the legal ability to communicate with medical professionals on behalf of your child if they are incapacitated. Without it, you may need to obtain a court order to obtain information about your child’s status or make medical decisions on their behalf. You may need to appoint more than one health care proxy if your child is attending college out of state.
  • HIPAA authorization. Once your child turns 18, you will need written consent in order to access their medical records. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prevents anyone—even parents—from obtaining information about a person’s medical condition or viewing their medical records. Your child should sign a HIPAA authorization form and make sure it is filed in their medical record.
  • Financial Power of Attorney. This document allows you to act as an agent in your child’s financial matters. With a power of attorney, you can access your child’s bank and credit card accounts and sign legal documents on their behalf, even if they are in another city, state, or country. In Florida, Financial Powers of Attorney are effective immediately upon signing, meaning you can file taxes, pay creditors and school fees, and make time-sensitive financial decisions even if your child is not incapacitated.
  • FERPA authorization. If your child is over 18 and attending university, you will need written consent from your student to access their educational records under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). While this may seem trivial, it can be of enormous benefit if you are performing financial duties or overseeing your child’s health care. Depending on where your child attends college, a HIPAA authorization may not be enough to access health information that is considered part of a child’s educational record. In addition to your child’s transcripts, scholarship information, and tuition information, you can also access health information about treatment provided by a campus health clinic or university hospital.
  • Living Will. A Living Will allows your child to make decisions about their care if they are diagnosed to be in a permanent coma or terminally ill state. It includes directions for medical providers on whether they consent to life-sustaining measures (ventilators or feeding tubes), cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), or organ donation.
  • A simple Will. A Last Will and Testament may not be necessary for all young adults but is essential for those who stand to inherit a good deal of assets. If your child passes away without a Will, their assets will be probated and passed on to heirs according to Florida intestate laws. If your family has a high net worth, your child may benefit from a trust to protect certain assets.

Nobody likes to think about what could happen to their children once they are out of sight, but failing to prepare for the worst will just make a terrible situation harder. The benefit of working with an estate planning attorney to put these forms in place is that we can explain why the forms are necessary, ensure that your child makes informed choices, and fully customize your child’s estate plan to their specific needs.

At Yolofsky Law, we don’t just draft documents. We ensure that you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, both for yourself and the people you love. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can help you articulate your wishes for your future care and legally protect your loved ones and finances for years to come. Give us a call today to discuss your options with our trusted advisors.

Related Links:

(Re)Defining Family: Estate Planning for the Modern Family

To Halve or to Hold: Estate Planning for Married Couples

Florida Asset Protection for Married Couples: Tenancy by the Entirety