While it is virtually a matter of standard practice to execute a general durable power of attorney for finances and a power of attorney for health care as part of a comprehensive estate plan, it is far less likely that any consideration is given to planning for young adult children. I would not say that this is a complete oversight in the planning process, but recently I have become more interested by this idea and the benefits that just a small amount of additional attention can bring. By young, adult children I am referring to children that have reached the age of 18, but whose parents are still very much involved in his or her financial and health care related world due to the fact that the child is not married or otherwise in a position where someone else could step in to assist them in a time of need. This scenario is not atypical considering the normal life cycle of people today. It is typical to see a child graduate high school, go on to college or out into the workforce for a number of years, and then at some point in his or her mid to late 20s he or she gets married. The interplay with the law, privacy rights, the age of majority (18), and parental rights makes this a very interesting issue.
It is assumed in most cases that a parent is responsible for a child and privy to information regarding that child until the child reaches the age of majority, which in Wisconsin is 18. The question then becomes what happens to these rights and responsibilities once the child turns 18? The answer may be surprising but the truth is the parents really are not in the same position. Universities will not discuss the contents of a students file with a parent without the student's written consent. Additionally, banks and other financial institutions will not discuss the child's account or allow the parent access for any reason. Finally and possibly most importantly, hospitals and doctors will not allow parents to make health care decisions or access medical records without the student's written consent.
One way of addressing these issues is for the adult child to execute powers of attorney to nominate either the parents or another person to make health care and financial decisions for the child in the event they are unable to do so themselves. This approach uses the same documents that one would find in a typical estate plan: General Durable Power of Attorney for Finances and a Power of Attorney for Heath Care.
While it might not be the expected birthday, graduation or holiday gift, the peace of mind provided by proper planning will become evident to adult children at some point in their lives. With any luck they will realize the amount of care and thought that went into that gift or recommendation.