By: Devon Walke
Devon Walke is an Associate Attorney at WhitbeckBennett. He was born and raised in Oklahoma, never venturing too far from his hometown of Norman, attending the University of Oklahoma for both undergraduate studies and law school. While in law school, Devon was a member of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Inn of Court. To learn more about Mr. Walke, click here.
Protecting Your Child as They Transition Into Adulthood
The general public often has a tendency to exclusively associate family law attorneys with conflict and heartache. While acrimony is a necessary and unfortunate aspect of day-to-day business in any family law firm, it is important to know that our firm is not only here to put out fires—we are also here to help you prevent them. The attorneys at WhitbeckBennett strive to offer you a more comprehensive approach to your family law needs. We are here for you in the good times and the bad—not just the latter. But even during those good times, one needs to be prepared for the worst—so that in the event that misfortune does befall upon you or your family, you have at least done all you can to mitigate the blow before it arrives.
One estate planning aspect that goes unrecognized and overlooked by many (until it is too late) is the need to safeguard our children who are nearing adulthood during that amorphous little window of time when they are still living under our roof but have reached that arbitrary age at which the law has determined them to be adults. Many don’t realize that upon their child’s eighteenth (18th) birthday, parents lose their legal authority over and/or to act on behalf of their children in many capacities. This can lead to many unfortunate scenarios for the unprepared and unsuspecting. A parent can no longer obtain their child’s medical and/or academic records without first obtaining his/her consent. Likewise, they suddenly lack the authority to sign documents on behalf of their children, and can no longer manage the financial affairs of their children for any accounts on which the parent him/herself is not named as a joint owner.
As parents, we obviously never want to stop protecting our children, so it is important to realize that these concerns are not just limited to the time period during which our (now) adult child is living in our home as they finish up high school, but the very same concerns continue as we send our young man or woman off to college to experience the world on his or her own for the very first time. Imagine the awful scenario in which a child is attending college out-of-state and is in a terrible accident, and the hospital where he/she is taken needs to know whether life-sustaining treatment ought to be provided, but they have no documentation indicating the young man or woman’s wishes and/or instilling the authority to make critical medical decisions upon a family member. Or alternatively, envision an 18-year-old child who has sustained serious injuries in an automobile accident (i.e., is rendered unconscious, in a coma, or suffers brain trauma), and is not capable of receiving and evaluating information to the extent that he/she cannot meet the essential requirements to care for his/her own physical health and safety, and/or manage financial resources, a parent may find themselves in the awful position of being incapable of acting on his/her child’s behalf, without first spending the time and money to go through guardianship proceedings to have a Court instill such authority upon the parent.
That time, energy, and money, especially in such a dark and dismal moment, could be much better spent elsewhere. In order to prevent the above situations which obviously can range from relatively minor yet persistent inconveniences to significant medically, financially, and emotionally taxing events at crucial moments, it is important to be proactive in protecting your child by meeting with an attorney to discuss your options today. Powers of Attorney (for financial protections) and Advance Directives (to name a health care proxy and address medical concerns before they arise) are powerful and effective tools to have in your child’s pocket.
By ensuring that your son and/or daughter is prepared for the worst, you are taking an important step to protect what matters most. WhitbeckBennett’s staff and attorneys are here to help you in that endeavor. Please don’t hesitate to contact one of our offices today.