Attorney & Mediator
Attorney & Mediator

Getting your Child Ready to be an Adult.

Your child is months away from his or her 18th birthday, what should you as a parent do?

Just as you wouldn’t have allowed them to drive the family car without taking driver’s education, there are some important steps that your son or daughter should take when that birthday arrives.

In this day and age, 18 year olds are most often still dependent upon their parents – they live at home (often for years), they remain on your medical insurance, you still support them.  In the eyes of the law, however, they are adults.  They need to understand the responsibilities that come with this new status.

Financial matters are critical.  While they can now sign contracts, obtain loans, open checking and savings accounts without your authorization, they are now solely responsible for the consequences.  Without specific authorization, you will be unable to negotiate for them with creditors, banks or insurance companies.  If your son or daughter is a student who lives away from home, this can make assistance from you difficult.

The solution is for your son or daughter to sign a Durable Power of Attorney naming you as his or her Agent.  With this document in place, you will be able to assist with negotiations with financial institutions, insurance companies and creditors. 

Medical matters are another area of concern.  If your son or daughter were ill or injured after his or her 18th birthday, and if unable to communicate due to the illness or injury, you would not be legally permitted to intervene and direct the medical care.  In fact, doctors and medical personnel would not be permitted to discuss the medical status of your loved one.  You would be forced to go to Probate Court to obtain a Guardianship in order to have access to his or her medical information or direct medical care.

The solution is for your son or daughter to sign a Designation of Patient Advocate or Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.  This would legally enable you to assist him or her in a time of need. 

These two documents can help you to assist your son or daughter in the early years of adulthood when your help is still sorely needed. 

Durable Power of Attorneys are not effective after death

A common area of confusion is Durable Power of Attorneys.  It seems that most people know that these are effective during a person’s lifetime to assist with financial and legal affairs.  What is less commonly understood is that the legal effectiveness of this document stops at the moment of death.

For the unknowing, what often happens is that they use the Power of Attorney for mom or dad during their lifetime to help them with paying bills and getting money out of the bank.  Then mom or dad dies.  They continue to go to the bank and get money out of the bank or write checks.  No one says anything to them – so they assume that it is okay.

It isn’t until they attempt to go to close out a bank account or go to sell the real property that they are stopped.  They state that mom/dad has died and they are taking care of business.  They present the Power of Attorney and are told that it is not effective anymore and that they need a Letter of Authority from the Probate Court.

This is when they come to my office, upset and confused.  They don’t understand why the bank or real estate agent would not accept the Power of Attorney when they had been using it for so long.

They are usually quite shocked when I tell them that the bank or broker was correct and that they should have gone to Probate Court immediately after mom/dad’s death and that it really was not proper to have been writing checks on their deceased parent’s checking account relying on the Power of Attorney.

Powers of Attorney are effective during our lifetime only.  Once we have passed away, matters shift.  In order to do business and banking thereafter, it is a matter that is governed by our Wills or Trusts.