When your son or daughter turns 18, it’s important to make sure they have the necessary legal documents in place to protect them and allow you to continue to guide them through young adulthood. On a child’s 18th birthday, they are magically considered an adult in the eyes of the law, and their legal status is different from when they were 17.
They can suddenly vote, join the military, get married, live on their own, sign contracts, take out loans, obtain medical treatment without your consent, and make their own decisions. While we know that most 18-year old kids are still maturing and learning, and are in desperate need of your guidance, you can no longer make legal decisions for them, get information from their doctor, college, or any financial institutions where they have accounts. The only way around that is for them to sign the appropriate legal documents giving you permission to continue assisting them. Our office drafts such documents on a regular basis and would be glad to assist you or answer any questions that you may have. We suggest the following documents be signed by your son or daughter immediately after turning 18:
- HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY: This allows you to make healthcare decisions for your son or daughter if they’re unable to do so on their own. g., if they’re involved in an auto accident or are suffering from an illness that renders them unable, even temporarily, to make medical decisions for themselves, this document will appoint you as their Agent to take charge of the situation and make the necessary medical decisions on their behalf.
- HIPAA MEDICAL AUTHORIZATION AND RELEASE: This document accompanies the Health Care Power of Attorney and allows your son or daughter’s doctors to share medical information with you.
- GENERAL DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY: This document allows you to continue to make legally binding decisions for your son or daughter on their behalf. Although you cannot use this document to make decisions contrary to their wishes or without their knowledge, the document can be used to file their taxes, access and monitor their bank accounts, pay bills, sign their name to checks, sign legal documents on their behalf, deal with loan or tuition issues or problems, and attempt to rectify any financial problems they may find themselves in. If your child gets in an accident where they’re incapacitated and unable to handle their affairs, this document give you broad powers to take complete charge of their day-to-day decisions, finances, and all of their legal matters.
- FERPA AUTHORIZATION AND RELEASE: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) restricts what information a college can share with a parent without the child’s written permission. For example, often a school cannot share any academic (grades/progress), financial, loan, or disciplinary information with you unless your child has authorized it. Often schools have their own authorization form for your child to sign giving them the right to share information with you, but your child has to ask for this form. We suggest that you encourage and ensure that your child signs such a form. If the school does not have their own form, our office can draft a FERPA Authorization for your child to sign.
- Simple Will: While the odds are against needing this at a young age, it definitely rounds out the above documents and is good to have in place as your son or daughter progresses throughout young adulthood. If they get married and/or have children, this document can always be revised.
These are all extremely important documents that all adults should have in place. They’re necessary tools that you will use as you continue to parent, teach and guide your son or daughter into young adulthood. Our office’s primary focus is Estate Planning, Probate and Trust Administration. As a result, we’re very familiar with the intricacies of these documents, and would be glad to assist you in getting them in place. Please feel free to call our office (of course, free of charge) to discuss your options and to ask any questions that you may have. We look forward to assisting you and your son or daughter.
Estate planning attorney Christopher P. Cox has more than 30 years of experience and has helped countless numbers of people with all aspects of estate planning, probate and trust administration. A free consultation is available and provides a great opportunity to learn how the law applies to your specific situation.