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I do not have children of my own yet, but I have a younger brother in college that has had me thinking about the need for young adults to take steps to protect themselves. My brother Stephen is an active 22 year old. He’ll go out boating, cliff jumping, to music festivals and travelling on the weekends. It doesn’t sound so bad to be a college student in Southern California does it?! But what am I getting at here? He does some pretty risky things! Don’t get me started on how nervous the thought of him cliff jumping makes his protective older sister….
If you have loved ones in this age group, I encourage you to talk to them about creating some simple estate planning documents to protect themselves, and alleviate their family, in case of emergency. Ideally, everyone 18 years of age and older would at least have a Health Care Directive and a Power of Attorney for finances in place.
Once a child is 18, their parents no longer have decision making ability for them. In fact, pursuant to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), their doctors cannot release anything to a parent or family member unless that “child” has authorized the release of their private health care information. Let’s put this in perspective…if Stephen injures himself next time he goes cliff jumping, my parents won’t have any information released to them about his condition when he is admitted to the hospital.
We can avoid this dilemma by executing health care documents that will provide certain individuals HIPAA authority, and name health care agents to make decisions on our behalf if we are unable to make our own. With holiday breaks coming up, and college children returning home, please consider working on these steps with your family members. We are never too young to take action to protect ourselves and our family.
Christine Ellingsen is a Northern California native now practicing law as an estate planning attorney in Carmel Valley San Diego at the Barger Law Group, APC. She spent a year in New York working in the business sector before moving to Southern California to attend law school at the University of San Diego. She is happy to have started her law career in San Diego and to now call Encinitas home, where she keeps busy between exploring Coastal North County and training her new puppy.