Protect Your Child with an Advanced Health Care Directive

Filed under: Estate Planning

Imagine that your child, a college sophomore, goes on a Colorado ski trip with his friends. Unfortunately, he has a bad accident on the slopes, and sustains serious injuries. You fly to Colorado to be at his side in the hospital, but once there, you are confronted with a difficult situation. Since your child is over 18, you can’t make decisions about his health care. And since he’s unconscious, your son can’t voice his own decisions. You’re left in limbo, watching your son struggle to heal, and at the mercy of hospital.

It sounds frightening and unlikely, but that is actually the type of situation some parents have found themselves confronting. Once your child turns 18, you don’t have much say in their medical or legal decisions. And yet, this is your child!

These situations can be prevented with the creation of an Advanced Health Care Directive (“AHCD”) sometimes also referred to as a living will. It’s the type of document that you normally associate with elderly folks, but estate planning is actually for everyone. In fact, young adults need an AHCD just as much as anyone else. We never know when an accident could happen, and we should all make our wishes known (and legally enforceable) before an event that could render us unconscious and incapable of making decisions for myself.

An AHCD is a relatively simple document that, among other things, grants someone else the power to make healthcare decisions in the event you cannot make decisions for yourself. For most younger adults, this person would likely be a parent who has their best interests at heart. If your child has created an AHCD, you will be able to access necessary information about your child’s health, along with making important decisions in the event that your child is unable to do so.

An AHCD will also allow your child to have more specific wishes enforced, regarding specific health care treatments, disposition of physical remains, and end of life decisions. An AHCD can also be used to state preferences for artificial nutrition, pain relief, and any other special instructions.

AHCDs are revocable, meaning they can be canceled at any time by communicating with your physician, destroying the document, or creating a new document (which will automatically revoke prior ones). Each family’s needs are different, but the most important thing is that you have a conversation about these issues and allow your child to make his or her wishes known. Since the issues related to the creation of an AHCD can be complex, call our estate planning attorney for more details. We can help you put together a plan that is right for you and your child.

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