Becoming an adult is exciting because you are faced with many new and challenging opportunities. Adulting, however, also means you now have autonomy, privacy and responsibility for your own personal and medical emergencies. Planning your future requires you to grow relationships with people you trust, especially people you trust to help you when you cannot help yourself. A Power of Attorney helps you keep your autonomy even when you cannot conduct business for yourself. A Health Care Power of Attorney ensures your medical care even if you were unconscious or are having an emergency. A Living Will allows you to free your loved ones from difficult decisions while ensuring your wishes are followed. A HIPAA and FERPA release keeps your information in the hands of those you trust.
Four important legal documents for young adults that help them transition from children to college students.
A General Durable Power of Attorney (POA) is not a scary document but a very effective one. It allows you to appoint a trusted person to handle your bank account, bills, finances and business commitments. The agent and a successor agent can handle business and financial affairs if you are not capable of doing so. The agent needs to be a trusted friend or relative because the powers granted under the durable power of attorney are significant. Things to consider are whether your agent is locally based, good with money, has some business experience, and is easy to reach by phone. The power of attorney is usually only used if you are incapable of handling business for yourself or are out of the area and something needs to be handled immediately.
A Healthcare Power of Attorney (HCPOA) is a specific person that you appoint to discuss your medical decisions with the medical team when you cannot do so or cannot make an informed medical decision. The agent’s decision cannot supersede yours if you are competent and capable. You will need to discuss your medical condition concerns and desires with your agent. An HCPOA frequently includes end of life preferences.
In many states, including Alabama, the Advanced Directive is used to appoint a health proxy to make decisions at the end of life. A good HCPOA includes the ability to make those decisions as a backup to the Advance Directive. The Advance Directive is also known as a living will, health care proxy, patient advocate form, and numerous other names. Each of these documents deals with the issues of resuscitation, life support, food and hydration at or near the end of life.
As an adult, your health information is protected by HIPAA. Your HCPOA should include a HIPAA waiver. Many hospitals and doctors’ offices request a separate HIPAA waiver as well. Your school records are protected by FERPA. FERPA protects all personal school records and scholarship information and requires you to personally sign a document with your school authorizing someone to receive this information.
Meeting with an attorney can be inexpensive and simple. Some banks and law firms provide free assistance to set up a Power of Attorney or Health Care Power of Attorney. Notarization is usually included and is free if you have an account with the bank. Don’t let the stress or fear stop you from getting legal documents in order. Law firms want you to help you help yourself and keep your loved ones in the know by providing reasonable solutions to the big and scary parts of life. These legal documents are different yet equally important for the protection of your autonomy and health information.
Having a POA, HCPOA, AD, HIPAA and FERPA waivers signed as you start adulthood is important. You can start by meeting with an attorney or and reaching out to a trusted friend or family member to serve as your agent. With these legal documents in place, you can be ready for all that life throws at you.
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