If you have a child who’s started college this year or is taking a gap year to work or travel, it’s time to make sure they get at least one estate planning document in order. We’re not talking about a will –although it never hurts to have one.
The document they need most is an advance directive. That’s because once your child turns 18 years of age, you no longer have the legal right to get medical information about them if they become seriously ill or injured or to direct their care – unless they give it to you. That’s just part of what an advance directive in New York does.
Health care proxy
There are two main parts to the document. The first is the health care proxy. That’s where a person designates their health care agent.
This person has the right to make medical decisions (with any limitations listed) on their behalf if they can’t do so for themselves. They also have the right to get information on their condition that would otherwise be confidential.
The second part of the document is the living will. That allows a person to designate what kind of measures they want (and don’t want) taken to prolong their life if they’re unable to speak for themselves. These include things like mechanical respiration and artificial nutrition. This document can also be used to designate things like under what conditions they no longer want life-prolonging measures taken.
This document is wise for adults of any age to have – particularly if they’re unmarried. It’s crucial, though, to choose your health care agent (and alternates) carefully and to be sure they’re agreeable to having this responsibility. For a young adult, one or both parents are often given this role, but it can be any appropriate adult.
It’s also important to make sure the document is accessible to the right people. Your health care agent should have a copy, as should your primary care provider. It’s a good idea to keep it on your phone.
Creating an advance directive isn’t easy. It requires you to think about what makes life worth living. However, it can make things easier for your loved ones at a difficult time and help ensure that you have a chance to “speak” for yourself even if you can’t actually talk. As with any estate planning document, it’s wise to have legal guidance as you create it to help ensure that it’s valid if it’s ever needed and accurately reflects your wishes.