Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Planning for College-bound Children

     With the beginning of a new school year, today is a perfect opportunity to address the subject of Powers of Attorney and Patient Advocate Designations for a client’s adult children. As we previously discussed, despite their parent’s perception, once a child reaches the age of eighteen they are an adult in the eyes of the law, and therefore their parents no longer have the right to make decisions on their behalf should they become incapacitated.
     This can be corrected by having children execute Durable Powers of Attorney and Patient Advocate Designations, naming their parents to make decisions, and parents can continue to care for their children should they become incapacitated. These documents provide both parent and child with peace of mind that, in the event of an emergency that causes the child to be incapacitated, the parent will have the ability to assist their child without needing to petition the probate court for that authority.
     It is important the clients’ children understand how the documents they sign will protect them should their parent need to use them. The Patient Advocate Designation allows their parent to make medical decisions in the event that the child is unable to make those decisions because of illness or injury. A Durable Power Of Attorney is more complex, because it allows the parent to make legal and financial decisions, including paying bills, dealing with landlords, and filing lawsuits on the child's behalf if the child is incapacitated and unable to take these actions for themself. Both the parent and child should know that without these documents, if the child becomes incapacitated, the Probate Court must be petitioned to name a party to make decisions, which can be expensive and time-consuming.
     The process of drafting and executing these documents also has the added benefit of providing the opportunity to introduce clients’ children to the client’s legal and financial advisors. While discussing the importance of these documents with their children the client also has the opportunity to begin to explain their own planning.  This early introduction to both the estate and financial planning can set the children on a path to a more secure future as well as act as a stepping-stone to understanding their parents’ planning. While some clients balk at the idea of introducing their children to the planning process at such a young age, taking the time to execute a patient advocate designation and durable power of attorney can save the client and their child from significant inconvenience, time delays and cost in the event of an emergency.

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