Health care estate planning for young people

Most people in Georgia and around the country attend to estate planning matters because they are getting older or have accumulated assets that they wish to protect. However, some of the documents found in a comprehensive estate plan can be extremely valuable even to college students. This is particularly true of documents dealing with health care decisions because young people tend to enjoy dangerous activities like rock climbing and skiing and are also disproportionately represented in traffic accident statistics.

College students who are still covered by their parents' health insurance coverage may think that they have no reason to worry about these risks. However, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act prohibits health care providers from sharing information or medical records with any third party. Drafting a HIPAA authorization would eliminate this problem and allow a parent or another trusted individual to step in should the need arise.

Other health care estate planning tools could be even more valuable in an emergency because even young people can be incapacitated by injury, illness or mental health issues. Drafting health care powers of attorney and durable powers of attorney could ensure that crucial medical decisions and financial matters are attended to by a trusted individual. Health care powers of attorney authorize a spouse, family member or trusted friend to make decisions about medical treatment and the conditions under which treatment should stop. Durable powers of attorney allow trusted individuals to handle an incapacitated person's financial affairs and legal matters.

A lawyer with estate planning experience could help a young person to draft HIPPA authorizations, health care powers of attorney and durable powers of attorney. Legal counsel may also advocate on the client's behalf in court if these estate planning documents are ever challenged.

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