Back to school season has arrived and if you have children, or grandchildren, over the age of eighteen (in school, living with you, or on their own) that do not have much financially, you should encourage them to have at least the following documents in place:
General Durable Power of Attorney for Finances. This document authorizes your “attorney in fact” to handle your bank and financial accounts if you lack capacity, are unavailable, or unable to do so for yourself.
Advance Health Care Directive. An Advance Health Care Directive authorizes an agent to speak to a doctor for you if you cannot. If an accident or disease renders your loved one unable to speak for themselves, this is invaluable. Beware: The free advance directives provided by hospitals work fine for medical providers, but they are not usually legally adequate.
Medical Privacy Authorization. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act makes it hard for anyone to obtain medical records of a patient. If someone in the family cannot obtain medical records to provide to a medical insurance carrier, the carrier will not pay the bills and the medical provider will turn the patient over to collections.
If none of these pre-arrangements have been made for incapacity, the court will grant a conservatorship of the person or the estate. This process is expensive and intrusive because the conservator must seek ongoing court approval.
***In California, if children have homes and larger assets, they need the above documents, a living trust and pour-over wills.