Turning 18: Why You Need a Health Care Power of Attorney

On your 18th birthday, you legally become an adult. This brings along all sorts of exciting privileges. You can vote! You can get a tattoo! You can buy cigarettes and lottery tickets! You can open your own credit card and sign contracts on loans, car payments, houses, and more. But there’s one aspect of becoming a legal adult that many people don’t think about until it is too late and they find themselves in a pickle. 

After you turn 18, your parents are no longer your legal guardians. That means that if you are injured in an accident and unable to give consent (i.e. unconscious), your parents will not be able to speak to your doctors about your condition, or in some cases even see you. HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) prevents doctors from sharing your medical information with anyone without your express permission.

This is why, as soon as you turn 18, you need to set up a health care power of attorney, also sometimes referred to as a medical power of attorney. If you are a college student or young adult and would like your parents to be able to make decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated, you need to make these legal arrangements as soon as possible. Every day that you go without them is a risk. 

If you are the parent of a young adult, you need to make sure that they are aware of the ways in which HIPAA would restrict you from helping them if they were injured. It is wise to have a conversation about why a health care power of attorney is necessary, and then offer to schedule them an appointment with an estate planning attorney to complete the paperwork. You cannot force your child to make you their health care power of attorney — as an adult it is their choice. 

You may hear some people or websites suggest that you can create your health care power of attorney alone, without the help of a lawyer. We highly recommend NOT following that advice, and not just because we’re estate planning attorneys! When it comes to a health care power of attorney, it is absolutely essential to get all the details right. If it is not completely accurate, as well as signed, witnessed, and notarized correctly, it will not be usable, and you probably won’t realize until it’s too late.

If you’re ready to create a health care power of attorney, contact ElDeiry & ElDeiry, P.A. We would be happy to help you take this step in becoming an adult with a plan. To schedule an appointment, just give us a call at (954) 670-2800. We look forward to partnering with you!    

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