It wasn’t so long ago that my daughter Meghan was turning 18 and I wrote the blog post “#Legal”. Fast forward 21 months and here I am again with a child, this time my son, turning 18. In a less than 3 month time span, Carter will: graduate from high school, turn 18 and start college in a different state. (Yes, I’m emotional and tearing up when I think about all of this and when I’m writing this).
When Carter turns 18 he is a legal adult in Minnesota. This means he can make his own health care decisions. He can vote. He can enter into contracts. He can get married. He can enter the military. The mom in me is proud (even if a bit weepy), that my son has grown into a young man who is headed in a good direction.
But the mom in me is also sad and scared that my parenting role is done (though I know it will never be over) and that my son won’t necessarily be able to handle all of these adult things yet, on his own. (He DID just call me from school today to tell me his tooth hurts and see if I can schedule a dentist appointment. Would he know how to do this on his own? Would he even do this on his own? It’s so hard for moms to let go of taking care of their babies – even if they are 18).
The lawyer in me knows what I need to do in order to make sure that I still have a role in his life, in terms of medical decision making and financial/transacational things. I want to able to help him with medical decision making and appointments, if he needs/wants me to. I want to be able to help out with his accounts and financial transactions, if he needs me to (which is NOT the same as him needing me to send him pizza money on a Friday night at college!). So how do I ensure that I can do this? Have him sign a Health Care Directive and Power of Attorney. These are two documents in Minnesota that an adult signs that names someone else to make medical decisions/access medical information (for the Health Care Directive) and make financial decisions/access financial records – among other things – (for the Power of Attorney). Every adult should have these two documents in place – not just “kids” turning 18.
So, just as I did for Meghan when she turned 18, wrapped up with Carter’s birthday presents next month will be a Power of Attorney and a Health Care Directive from me. I hope he will fill them out and give me the legal authority to help him, if he needs it. If he chooses to fill it out, it’s really him who will be giving me a gift on his 18th birthday – the gift of peace of mind, knowing that I’ll be able to legally help him if he needs it.