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Advanced Directives

Ready for the World: Not Too Young for Estate Planning

Turning 18 and leaving home is an exciting time for young adults, filled with a host of new freedoms such as voting and independent living. However, it is also a time in life where many young adults still rely on their parents, grandparents, or other respected adults for guidance and support.

In a perfect world, this looks like care packages, phone calls when one is sick, and navigating adult responsibilities and relationships such as paying bills and applying for a job. In a not-so-perfect world, this might look like a young adult needing someone to make decisions on their behalf, perhaps due to an unexpected medical event such as a car accident or being diagnosed with COVID-19. Families all around the country can share stories of the trouble and strife that may occur when information and decision-making is delayed or withheld due to privacy concerns.

Having someone to fall back on in emergencies does not necessarily default to parents due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) and other privacy safeguards that medical providers and financial institutions have in place. Therefore, it is never too early to implement basic Advanced Directives to document a young adult’s preferred back-up decision maker(s).

Advanced Directives that are recommended for all adults, regardless of age, include Power of Attorney for Healthcare, Power of Attorney for Property, and HIPPA Release. While it is not an Advanced Directive, young adults attending college may also wish to consider signing a FERPA Release with their College or University.

Following is a high-level overview of the documents most frequently recommended for young adults.

  • Power of Attorney for Healthcare: Designates someone (the “agent”) to make decisions for you (the “principal”) if you are unable to make or communicate medical decisions for yourself. The principal must completely trust the agent with your health decisions.
  • Power of Attorney for Property: Designates someone (the “agent”) to make decisions for you (the “principal”) if you are unable to make or communicate financial decisions for yourself. The principal must completely trust the agent with their financial decisions. In the case of a college student this might include transferring money into a bank account, paying tuition, or settling medical bills with a hospital or insurance company.
  • HIPPA Release: Designates which individuals a health care provider may share health care information. This document can frequently be helpful when settling medical insurance claims.
  • FERPA Release: Allows a third party (parent or guardian) access to financial aid records, grade reports, disciplinary records, and class information.

Power of Attorney documents can be drafted by an Estate Planning Attorney for the most customized outcome. However, statutory forms for the State of Illinois can be downloaded for free and completed by any Illinois resident.

Risky behavior in young adults is not uncommon and medical emergencies like car accidents do not discriminate by age; even for the most responsible and grounded 18-year-old. Having the necessary documents in place to protect one’s wishes regarding health and finances is just as important for the young as it is for the young-at-heart.

For assistance with Advanced Directives for the young adult in your life, contact a certified elder law attorney(*), such as Linda Strohschein and her team at Strohschein Law Group.  To set up an appointment, contact Strohschein Law Group at 630-377-3241.

This information provided by Strohschein Law Group is general in nature and is not intended to be legal advice, nor does it constitute a legal relationship.  Please consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

(*) The Supreme Court of Illinois does not recognize certifications of specialties in the practice of law and the CELA designation is not a requirement to practice law in Illinois


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