legal help

Young adults aged 18-22 are advised to secure certain legal plans to allow their loved ones to make medical decisions for them in case they are incapacitated. Photo by Scott Graham on

published on August 15, 2022 - 12:35 PM
Written by Frank Lopez

In 2021, a client of Clovis law firm Lawvex frantically called their offices for legal advice.

The client’s 20-year-old daughter had been taken to the hospital for acute appendicitis. Staff would not let the father into the examination room and would not give him any information on what was happening.

Hospital security even got involved to keep him from seeing his daughter.

Unfortunately, said Gary Winter, founder and managing attorney at Lawvex, the law firm team had to explain to the father that there was nothing he could do.

Once someone turns 18, parents no longer have the right to their children’s private health information under federal HIPPA law and can make no medical decisions unless the adult child has previously created legal documents to allow it.

This situation is not an uncommon one, Winter said, but it was the impetus to host the firm’s first informational event for young adults 18-22 in 2021. Another free “back to school” event is scheduled Aug. 18 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at all three of Lawvex’s offices in Clovis, Madera and Solvang. Attendees will receive education about estate planning as well as their own valid, legal Advance Health Care Directive with HIPAA release and Financial Power of Attorney.

Attendees will need to bring a valid ID or passport for documents to be notarized.

Winter said that it is important for everyone, even young people, to have these legal documents in place.

“There is a big misunderstanding that estate planning is only for the ultrawealthy. That’s not true,” Winter said. “Some level of estate planning is appropriate for all adults, including young adults.”

Winter said the office has been busy with clients setting up their estate plans, on track to complete 700 plans this year.

Every adult, no matter the size of their estate, should have their advance health care directive with HIPPAA release, a durable financial power of attorney in place to designate financial decisions and a simple wil, Winter said.

Since Lawvex is a full-service trust and estate firm, they have business clients exploring ways to transfer a business to one or more children. In the ag industry, Winter said it is typical for a family to run different sectors of a business — one child may run the farming operation while another runs the packaging operations. Another child may want nothing at all to do with the business.

Winter said the team at Lawvex helps navigate the process to ensure a legacy for the company that ensures quality of life without setting the children against each other.

For younger business owners, it is important to get their estate plans in place early on, Winter said, making sure that their family is taken care of in the event of tragedy.

“Estate planning is crucial, even starting in your initial entrepreneurial venture,” Winter said. “Often times, young entrepreneurs are all gung-ho with their idea, and they completely blow off some of the fundamentals and sort of build a house of cards.”

Attorney Teresa Petty Jones is a sole practitioner in Clovis specializing in estate planning, asset protection probate and elder law, among other focuses. In the case of an accident that does not result in death, Jones said that anyone with a durable power of attorney, Advanced Health Care Directive and HIPPA waiver will be in a good position to allow somebody to step in to manage their financial, legal and business matters.

Though corporate businesses might have their structured flow charts handy in such situations, it is important for individuals and small businesses to have these plans in place as well.

“A sole practitioner or a mom-and-pop business will want these in place to be able to conduct banking, to make sure employees get paid, to make sure that payroll taxes get taken care,” Jones said.

Jones encourages all her clients who are business owners to think about whether they want their business to continue beyond their lives — and to what capacity and in what form.

Business owners must consider who has the natural ability and desire to run the business.

Jones also said that equal partnerships are not always a good thing and advises having a partner that has even half a percent more stake in ownership so there is always someone to make the ultimate business decisions.

“Many people are paralyzed when it comes to decision making, and they have a difficult time making that ultimate decision — good, bad or indifferent. That will ruin a business quicker than anything else,” Jones said.

Jones said that when it comes to these legal issues, most people are in a reactive stage rather than a planning stage. She said the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us in the last few years just how important it is to have “planners rather than reactors.”

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