I thought I had all of them. But I didn't.
Here's the story: When my kids turned 18 I asked them to give me legal power of attorney so I could help them with legal and financial matters if needed. With this document, I can sell a vehicle, access bank accounts and deal with other issues while they were unavailable.
Having that documentation has been a huge help on a number of occasions.
Recently one off them developed a serious health issue and I needed to quickly help gather medical records from various doctors, hospitals and testing facilities.
NOTHING, nothing, nothing is more frustrating than knowing a family member needs you to help them navigate the medical and insurance records labyrinths--and you can't because even though they signed the proper permissions at each facility, the facilities often do not share those permissions with everyone in their own system. We found that was true even from floor to floor on the same day in the same hospital! I'll spare you the details.
What should you do? If you have adult children discuss the issue now.
- Do they trust you to help them with their legal and medical affairs if needed?
- What type of medical care do they want you to authorize or prevent?
- Do they understand you can't investigate an insurance claim for them if you can't access their information, even if they're on your policy until they're 26? You can pay for their policy but that means nothing legally beyond your depleted checking account.
- How do they expect you to sell the old car they'll leave in your driveway when they go to live in Brazil for a year?
Then contact an attorney to create a will, an advance directive and a legal power of attorney. Be sure they include HIPPA language that allows you to access their medical and insurance records if needed. Contact your insurance company for information on how to allow them to share information with you.
Having these documents in hand doesn't guarantee you won't encounter resistance from an ill-informed clerk guarding those records with their very life, but it ultimately gives you the authority you need to help those you love manage critically important issues, like getting medical records.
Here are a few links to help you with the discussions: