This week I attended an interesting wealth planning presentation and heard a nightmare story that I felt was important to share. Picture yourself in this situation:
You have a child who goes to college in another state, which is about a five-hour drive from your home. On your way home from a dinner party on Saturday night, you receive a call from a representative at the local hospital where your daughter goes to school. Apparently, she has been admitted to the hospital, and because you are listed on her insurance, they are calling you for some insurance information they need in order to treat her. Needless to say, you become quite agitated.
You urgently ask for some information, “What happened? Why was she admitted to the hospital? Is she okay?”
The response is frustrating, “Unfortunately, because your daughter is over the age of majority, the hospital is not permitted to discuss her case with you, sir.”
Growing more emotional, you ask if you can speak with her. The response to this question throws you over the brink into full-blown panic, “Unfortunately you cannot; she is currently incapacitated.”
What happens next is a complete nightmare – the longest five-hour car ride of your life. You drive all the way to the hospital, with absolutely no information about what has happened to your daughter and if she is going to be okay.
Unfortunately, this is a true story that really happened to a family. Fortunately, the daughter was fine, as it turned out her appendix had burst, so she needed an emergency (but routine) appendectomy. However, the panic and agitation the parents had to endure was torture.
The takeaway? Don’t lose your “power.” It is critical that all families regularly update all of their financial and estate planning documents, especially the medical and financial powers of attorney, which will enable loved ones to access information and make decisions for other family members who are suddenly incapacitated.
Although most families don’t think about executing these documents for their children, it is critical that these documents be in place for those who have reached the age of majority. June is the time for “dads and grads.” As a graduation present, and before they ship off to college, make sure to march your children into your estate attorney’s office to execute these critical documents.