High school seniors across Bartow County today and Saturday will walk across the stage in a tradition that symbolizes the end of their high school career and the beginning of a new world. A northwest Georgia lawyer said when entering that world, there are three documents parents need to be aware of in case of an emergency.
The three documents are the Advance Health Care Directive, Financial Power of Attorney and a signed Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act form.
"[Needing these documents] was something I wasn't aware of when my kids reached this [graduation] age," said Steve Worrall, a family law and wills, trusts and estate planning attorney of GeorgiaFamilyLaw.com: Worrall Law LLC in Marietta. "When they went to college, of course I had to get their permission to access their school records, but it really didn't occur to me that I would also need to have something in place to access their financial records or medical records."
Worrall explained many of the necessary documents can be obtained for free online through sites like www.caringinfo.org or legalzoom.com.
"While working with an attorney is always ideal when drafting legal forms -- especially if you have unique circumstances or don't feel comfortable [drafting the forms] -- many of these documents can be downloaded free online and completed at the family's leisure," Worrall said.
According to documents provided by Worrall, "[The Advance Health Care Directive] document allows a young adult to appoint someone they trust -- the parent -- to be their health care agent should they wind up in a coma or become otherwise incapacitated in a serious accident. 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.
"Having a financial power of attorney is necessary to give someone, preferably the parents, permission to access any bank accounts and act financially on the adult child's behalf if an emergency occurs. Such activities covered under the power of attorney include paying bills, buying or selling assets, applying for Social Security or other government benefits and the opening and closing of accounts.
"Parents should have their adult child pre-sign a HIPPA form to ensure they can immediately communicate with physicians and access important medical records."
Finally, Worrall recommended graduates keep an "In Case of Emergency" or "ICE" card in their wallet listing the names of all approved emergency contacts, health insurance information and all known allergies.
"It's such a natural instinct to want to jump in and help our children in an emergency," Worrall said. "Yet without these documents in place, parents could be helpless spectators of their child's care if they are incapacitated and unable to speak for themselves. Fortunately, this situation is entirely avoidable and I advise parents to protect their child with these critical documents before summer begins."
Worrall offers a "Parent Sanity Protection Kit," which includes all three documents, advisement on completion of the documents and a Family Treasures Planning Session for parents to review their estate information. The kit is available at a discount of $150 for parents of recent graduates who schedule an appointment with Worrall at 770-425-6060 before June 15.