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It’s the end of the school year and graduations are in full swing.  As your “baby” steps into adulthood, you might not realize that you will soon lose the ability to help your child or make healthcare decisions (even though you may still be paying the bill!) because of privacy laws.

For that reason, we strongly urge parents of graduating seniors (and even those with children already in college) to prepare a Young Adult Emergency Plan™ to ensure parents are consulted and actively involved in their child’s care should he or she become ill, incapacitated or seriously injured in an accident, or die unexpectedly.

Under current HIPAA laws, parents may be barred from making necessary medical and life-saving decisions on their child’s behalf without such documentation in place. Most parents assume they can make medical decisions until their child is legally married or at least remain a dependent, but that is just not the case.  The law can prevent parents from getting involved in the care of a person age 18 or older without explicit permission through legal documentation.

Moreover, current laws will prevent parents form having access to any accounts that their child creates online, as well as interfere with the parents’ ability to assist their child in any financial or legal aspect of their child’s life. One way we’ve seen this become a problem is when parents are unable to access their child’s cell phone, email, social media, or other digital accounts after their child’s untimely death. They are kept from a chance to further memorialize their child, collect and preserve information and memories, or simply close the accounts.

That’s why we created the Young Adult Emergency Plan™ – to make it easy for parents of graduating seniors to put this critical planning in place as soon as possible. It includes:

  1. ICE Card – ICE stands for “In Case of Emergency” and this card is kept in the child’s wallet listing the names of all approved emergency contacts, health insurance information and all known allergies or medical conditions. Even more importantly, our ICE card provides a subscription service for five-years that gives immediate access to the child’s HIPAA authorization and medical directives to the parents and emergency responders so there is no lost time in searching for legal documents that are either misplaced or not easily accessible.
  2. Advanced Healthcare Directive– An Advanced Healthcare Directive allows a young adult to appoint someone they trust (the parent) to be their healthcare agent should they wind up in a coma or become otherwise incapacitated.  It also specifies the type of long-term care or life support the child would want should they become incapacitated or left in a permanent vegetative state. This avoids the sad example of Terri Schiavo and gives peace of mind and clarity during what would be a stressful and unimaginable time,.
  3. HIPAA Authorization– A HIPAA Authorization allows the young adult to give permission to someone (the parent) to access their healthcare information including medical records, information from doctors and insurance providers. This includes having access to records, but also just simply allowing conversations to be had about health and treatment which otherwise would be prohibited.
  4. Power of Attorney– A Power of Attorney allows the young adult to give permission to someone (the parent) to have conversation, get information, and make decisions on their behalf regarding financial and legal aspects of their life. This could be critical in an emergency to help a young adult manage financial obligations like paying bills or taxes or dealing with a landlord or school issues.
  5. Basic Will – While a young adult may not have much by way of assets or belongings to pass on, preparing even a basic Last Will & Testament will allow the young adult to give permission to someone (the parent) to handle all their affairs upon an untimely death. This includes allowing access and management of digital assets (such as email, cell phone, social media accounts). It also gives the young adult an opportunity to provide a gift of love to their families by providing clear instructions to regarding memorial services.

Without a Young Adult Emergency Plan™ in place, parents could be helpless spectators to their child’s care should they become ill, disabled or otherwise unable to speak for themselves.  Fortunately, this situation is entirely avoidable.

If you are interested in putting a Young Adult Emergency Plan™ in place for your graduating senior, please call our office (949-333-3702) or click the links below to find out how you can get started.

Schedule a Young Adult Emergency Plan Info Session

Get Our Free Young Adult Emergency Plan Guide

Subscribe to Our Newsletter 


Kevin Snyder is a husband, father, and an Orange County estate planning attorney and elder law attorney at Snyder Law, PC in Irvine, California. He’s all about family and passionate about estate planning, elder law, veterans and teaching others how to protect what matters most: family, dignity, and legacy. Snyder Law helps families from Orange, Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties, all the way to San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa, and Alameda counties. 

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