Parents enjoy many milestones as their children grow up from that first visit from the tooth-fairy to the first time they take the family car for a spin. But when your child turns 18 years old, he or she is no longer just your child; in the eyes of the law he or she is a bona-fide adult. This is one milestone that can affect your estate plan and how you plan to protect your family.
Once a child reaches age 18 Mom or Dad can no longer just step in and make medical decisions for them—even in emergencies. Because of this, it is imperative that your children who are just turning 18 have a Health Care Proxy and Advance Health Care Directive in place.
If your 18 year old child were ever in a situation where they couldn’t choose what type of treatment they want (say, he’s in a coma), the doctors will stabilize him. After that, it all depends. What if the parents can’t be reached? What if the parents are separated and disagree? To head off any potential complications in their treatment your 18-year-old should put two decisions in writing: how he wants to be treated if he’s in a permanent vegetative state or terminally ill, and who should make health-care decisions if he’s unable to speak for himself.
In Massachusetts, a Health Care Proxy allows you to nominate who should make medical decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so. An Advance Health Care Directive, also known as a “living will,” allows you to state your wishes for end of life decisions including life support, organ donation, authorizing an autopsy and making your choice known for the disposition of your remains.
This is pretty heady stuff to talk to your 18 year old about but it’s a conversation worth having, especially if your child still wants Mom or Dad to handle his or her affairs until they get a bit older or get married. An estate planning attorney can help make the conversation, and protecting your family, a lot easier.