Protecting Your Children: The Importance of Having a Power of Attorney

Protecting Your Children: The Importance of Having a Power of Attorney

Jessica Arends | Holland Attorney
The high school class of 2023 has officially graduated, and parents are getting ready to send their children off into the real world—whether that be to work, college, or a different adventure. Many young adults will be moving out of their parent’s homes for the first time, as they attempt to navigate adulthood.
Parents want to help their children succeed in this new phase of life and offer help in many different ways. Whether you gift them that first bucket of tide pods, or send some cookies to their new home, all parents want to look out for their children in ways they see fit.
One thing that all parents should do, but unfortunately most don’t, is talk to their kids about what the plan is if their child ends up in an emergency. It’s not a fun conversation, but the reality is that accidents happen – and we need to be prepared. When your child turns 18, you no longer have the legal authority to make medical decisions for them, access their healthcare information, access financial accounts to pay important bills, and many other things that need to happen in case of an emergency.
With our strict health care laws, it is extremely important that your child designate in writing who would have authority to make medical decisions for them if they were unable to. Additionally, this document would allow health status information to be shared with you regarding your child’s medical situation. Without this, privacy laws prohibit a doctor from speaking with parents of children over 18 about their child’s health care. 
The ability to make life-saving medical decisions is the most important, but there are additional benefits to having a general durable power of attorney. This document would allow you to handle other important affairs that your child may not be prepared for or able to do on their own. 
There are things many young adults are not prepared for, such as filing tax forms, entering into contracts, and meeting with professionals such as bankers, financial advisors, tax preparers, college administrators, etc. Having a general durable power of attorney allows you as a parent to do (or assist your child with) all of these things, better preparing them for success as they grow up.
Most importantly, having these documents allows you to make decisions and access important information in case of an emergency. Without these powers, a person would have to get a court order to handle another person’s affairs or make medical decisions on their behalf. This can be stressful and time consuming, especially during a time of emergency.
Most of us don’t even think about these documents until much later in life. However, they are necessary for everyone – young, old, and in between. Your child may be 18, but they still need you. Even if they’re looking forward to some independence, sit down with them and have this important conversation. 

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