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Give A Gift of A Living Will

A lady I’ve represented for years called me not long ago. Her 20 year old son was 300 miles away in college and having some health issues. The lady arranged to be financially responsible (along with the family health insurance) for her son to see a doctor.

What she didn’t realize was that paying the doctors’ bills didn’t give her access to her son’s health records or the right to approve/disapprove of the types of tests done on her son. The doctor had ordered a very expensive test without the mother’s permission and she was going to have to pay for it! It was not a test the mother or father (who is a dentist) thought was necessary.

Once our children reach 18, we have no right to obtain their medical records, speak to their doctor about their medical course of treatment, or be involved in their care in any way without a health care power of attorney with a Hipaa release.

Several years ago, I was appointed as guardian ad litem for a lovely young lady (28 at the time) who had incurred brain damage in a car wreck. She was no longer able to make decisions for herself, handle business matters, or work or attend school. Her parents had to apply for guardianship of their own child since she was an adult and unable to take care of herself. I was appointed to be the Court’s eyes and ears and to make an independent assessment of this young lady.

The guardianship process takes several months, can be expensive, and it an upsetting process to endure. Had the young lady given a durable power of attorney to her parents or other trusted person(s), none of this process would have been necessary.

In both of these situations, the young people didn’t have “estates”, ie, sufficient assets in their minds to justify wills laying out who would get their property, and yet they clearly needed some legal assistance. If you have adult children or grandchildren who are about to graduate, consider giving them a caring gift: a gift certificate for a package containing a Living Will (current statement of your wishes on being kept alive if you become terminally ill, are in a persistent vegetative state, suffer severe dementia or the like), a Health Care Power of Attorney, and a General Durable Power of Attorney.


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