• Matthew Schuller

Talk to Your Adult Children about a Health Care Proxy


As parents, we are used to being able to make decisions for our kids. When children turn 18, they are legally responsible for themselves, and as parents, you no longer have the ability to decide for them. If they are in an accident or have health issues, doctors and health care providers are legally unable to speak with you about your child’s condition. Even as a parent, you are not legally able to make decisions on their behalf, even if they cannot do so for themselves.


As your child approaches the age of majority, which is 18 years old, you should start to talk to your children about the new responsibilities they will have upon their 18th birthday. While we often think that legal documents such as a health care proxy or power of attorney are for our aging parents, this is not the case. The truth is that every adult should make a plan and have legal documentation of who will be able to make health and financial decisions if you cannot do so on your own.


What are some documents that every adult should have?


Living Will


A living will or advance healthcare directive is a document that outlines what actions you will and will not want to be taken in the event you are in an accident or have a health issue where you become incapacitated. A living will stipulate things like whether you want extraordinary measures taken, such as keeping you alive with a ventilator and feeding tube if you suffer an irreversible condition from an illness or an accident. You can also notify doctors if you want organs to be donated or not upon your death.


Health care proxy


A health care proxy is a document that gives another person the ability to make medical decisions for you if you cannot make decisions for yourself. The ability for the named person to make a decision is usually temporary and only during a period where you are unable to decide on your own. If you were in an accident and were incapacitated, your health care proxy would allow the named person to receive information and make decisions for you through the point that you are once again able to decide on your own.


A health care proxy cannot override a decision made within a living will in a severe or fatal circumstance. If a living will stipulates that extraordinary measures will not be taken, the person named in the health care proxy cannot override that decision.


Power of Attorney


A Power of Attorney is used to grant a person the ability to make decisions regarding private or business matters or any other legal matter. In most cases, a power of attorney becomes ineffective once the grantor becomes incapacitated unless the grantor specifies that a power of attorney remains in effect if they become incapacitated. This is called a power of attorney with durable provisions. This allows the grantee ability to make decisions until the grantor’s death.

Having a discussion with your teenage child about matters related to the possibility of them getting into a serious accident where they may become incapacitated can be a challenging discussion to have. Children may also push back on the idea of granting rights to others, as so many kids look forward to being 18 and being able to make their own legal decisions. They may look at these documents as a parent trying to remain in control.


If you have a child that is 18 or older or is even approaching 18 years of age, it is essential to have these discussions. If you are unsure how to proceed or properly explain these important documents to your child, call our office for a free consultation.

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