What Legal Documents are Important When Your Child Becomes an Adult

What Legal Documents are Important When Your Child Becomes an Adult

Whether your child is going off to college, out into the work force, or splitting time between work and school, there are several significant changes that happen once they turn 18 years old. Your child is now legally an Adult.

When your child becomes an adult, you may not have as much say in their lives as a parent. However, accidents and illnesses still occur, and you want to be able to stay informed and help make decisions with your teenager.

What Else You Need to Know When Your Child Becomes an Adult

When your child turns 18, they are now considered to be a legal adult. This enables them to vote, serve in the military, serve on a jury, and get married without your consent. All males who are citizens must register for selective service upon turning 18. While not required, it is a good idea for your child to register to vote particularly if they will be living away from home and would like an absentee ballot.

When your child becomes an adult, you no longer have the authority to make healthcare decisions for them, even if they are still under your health insurance. If your child is injured in an accident or has a life-threatening illness, and you do not have these documents, approval by the court might be needed to make decisions for them for even something as minor as inquiring how they are recovering after a routine surgery.

And even if you are paying for your child’s education, you no longer have access to your child’s grades once they turn 18 under the FERPA Law. Your child’s school is not obligated to share your child’s transcript with you, even if you are paying tuition. Also, you also can no longer manage your child’s money at age 18.

Medical Emergency Documentation

There are three forms that parents or guardians should be aware of in an emergency situation.

Healthcare Proxy: This is sometimes referred to as a medical power of attorney or healthcare power of attorney. The healthcare proxy enables you to make decisions on your child’s behalf should a medical emergency event occur. It also allows you to have access to your child’s medical records and to discuss their health with providers. A child that signs a healthcare proxy is designating the parents or other trusted adult to make medical decisions on their behalf should they not be able to make those decisions themselves.

Every state has its own laws concerning a healthcare proxy and some require notarization of the form. If your child is leaving the state, the form should be specific to the state where they will be residing. Most often, the HIPAA authorization is included in the medical proxy form. The healthcare proxy can also include a living will or have other instructions for end-of-life medical decisions.

HIPAA Authorization: HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This authorization allows healthcare providers to disclose information about your child’s health to you. The child can list information that they do not want to disclose such as mental health, sexual activity or orientation, or drug use. A HIPAA release may also include a living will.

Durable Power of Attorney (POA): This document allows a parent to make financial decisions on their child’s behalf. The POA can either take effect immediately after signing or may only take effect if the child becomes incapacitated. This document allows the designee to make financial decisions such as access bank accounts, pay bills, sign tax returns, and make changes to a child’s financial aid package. These also vary by state. The healthcare proxy can be included in the Durable POA in some states.

Because each state has its own regulations and forms on acting on behalf of your child, it is best to consult the state’s laws or speak to a local attorney.

When is the Best Time to Complete These Documents

These documents should be completed when your child turns 18 or before they leave for college as it may take time to get notarization if needed. Once the child leaves for school, it may be more difficult to get them completed. Plus, you do not want to wait until you need them and then realize they are not finished.

Get Legal Documents in Order Before You Need Them

Having a child become an adult is a momentous occasion that can bring about a lot of changes. As a parent, it is best to be prepared particularly in the case where the child will no longer be living at home. If you have any questions on how to best handle the financial aspect, please let us know.

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