Thoughtful Parenting: Protecting your high school graduate |

Thoughtful Parenting: Protecting your high school graduate

Congratulations to all the parents who’ve just seen their son or daughter accept their high school diploma. You’ve invested 18 years to get to here — efforts both fun and frustrating — and the time draws near for your graduates to set off on their own. Yet still, you wish to ensure them the best life possible, to protect them as you always have.

Before they leave your nest — whether to military service, a distant college or an apartment across town — you must know their departure signals a loss of many of the legal rights that you had as parents.

Under the law, a person’s 18th birthday is a crisp dividing line: a child one day, an adult the next. Your legal rights to access their health care, school or banking records automatically are gone. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to give you peace of mind and help keep them safe as they spread their wings.

Create advance directives

If an accident or illness prevents your child from communicating, you must have a health care power of attorney to make decisions on their behalf. Should tragedy strike, you will want to be with your son or daughter round-the-clock, not waiting in line at a courthouse for a judge to appoint a health care decision maker. Additionally, for medical professionals to share information with loved ones and each other, your son or daughter must sign a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act release giving loved ones permission to access their records and have copies sent straight away to their treating hospital or physician. Time can be critical in these situations, and advance planning will help your child get the best care quickly in a medical emergency.

Leverage technology

Instead of keeping important documents, such as those mentioned above, stashed away in a safe deposit box or file cabinet, modern technology will save documents securely and allow them to be accessed 24/7 around the globe. For an annual fee, stores advance directives and other important information in the cloud. Swan Law PC provides DocuBank memberships for each of its legacy planning clients. The My HealthCare Wishes app, available from the iPhone App Store and Google Play for Android devices, stores advance directives and other important documents securely on a smartphone for quick access when needed. With the My HealthCare Wishes app, a manual update will be needed when your son or daughter replaces their smartphone.

Use a belt and suspenders

Have your child carry a wallet card, and program an ICE app on their smartphone.

Confirm that your son or daughter’s smartphone has an ICE — In Case of Emergency — app. Some smartphones come with a standard ICE app. If your child’s smartphone does not already have an ICE app, have them install one through the iPhone App Store or Google Play for Android devices. Have your son or daughter use the ICE app to list your contact information, and remind them to update it when they get a new smartphone.

Catherine Swan is an attorney, mom and member of the Yampa Valley Medical Center Ethics Committee. She can be reached at

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