In case of emergency: Legal documents to protect your 18-year-old

In case of emergency: Legal documents to protect your 18-year-old

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Graduation day is upon us for high school students across the region. It's an exciting time, and while you're thinking about your child's next steps in life, you might also want to help them prepare for the future, in case of emergency.

Especially, if your child is going away to college.

"As soon as you are legally an adult, which would be at 18 years of age, you get power of attorney, medical power of attorney, advanced medical directive, which in Virginia is what people think of as a living will," said Scott Stovall, Cowan Gates.

If that seems heavy, consider how you'd feel if your child was in a horrible car crash - or worse - and you couldn't get information on his or her care.

"Most of the time, people think about elderly parents that they need to be able to make decisions for them," said Stovall. "But even your children, as soon as they reach 18 years of age, they're legally on their own. HIPAA rights would legally apply that could limit your ability to get information about your child."

It's why Stovall says it's worth helping your child voice what he or she would want, and put it in a legal document.

"You may still be paying for your kids, even after they're 18 years of age, but you'd be surprised what information you can no longer get after they turn 18," said Stovall. "Having a power of attorney, advanced medical directive cuts through that clearly authorizes you to have that information."

Power of attorney would name someone to be in charge of your financial affairs. An advanced medical directive would let someone make pretty weighty end-of-life decisions.

"Including, termination of life support, end-of-life decisions, allowing you to participate in scientific treatment or experimental treatment - all of that is set forth in the advanced medical directive," said Stovall.

A healthcare power of attorney would allow a doctor, for example, to share your medical information with family while you were in surgery or unconscious.

"The best thing you can do, is when your kids turn 18 years of age, take them to get a minimum of power of attorney and advanced medical directive that dictates who they want to be able to have access to their medical records, who the physicians can talk to, so they're not left in the dark," said Stovall.

These legal protections could help save your child - and your family - added grief and frustration in an otherwise tough time. And here's something else to think about: If your child is going to school or working out of state, make sure your legal document will translate to the state where your child will reside.

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