Why Does Your 18-year-old Child Need a Power of Attorney?
Legally speaking, when your child reaches the age of majority (18), parents do not have the right to review the child’s medical records or make decisions for their child’s health care. Sounds crazy right? But that is in fact the law. Talk to your “adult child” about these two power of attorney every 18 year old must sign. The medical and financial power of attorney documents will set them up for success and avoid a lot of potential heartache.
As a mother myself, I can tell you that being a parent is one of the scariest things you will ever feel. Every age has its own level of terror and although my little nuggets (being 7 and 4) are still not old enough to drive or peer pressured into underage drinking, I’m still a nervous wreck every time they walk out that door.
Personally, I was under the impression that once you are a parent, you’re a parent forever. And while that is true for the most part, legally speaking, you’re not.
I can’t even imagine the level of concern that a parent must feel when their child officially turns 18, becomes a legal adult, and goes off to college. The good news is that you can do something to lower that anxiety bar a few notches by being proactive with your baby’s newly found legal independence.
There Are 2 Power of Attorney Documents To Go Over
These two documents that pertain to power of attorney every 18 year old must sign, can be easily drawn up by your local Estate Planning Attorney.
1. Advance Healthcare Directive – a Comprehensive Legal Document that includes all medical decision-making forms
- Medical Power of Attorney – allows the student to appoint another person to access his or her health care records and make medical decisions on his or her behalf if the child cannot do so on his or her own. Completing a medical POA naming a parent as the Agent will provide parents and students with the assurance that if an emergency occurs, the parents will be allowed to do what they do best, act on their child’s behalf and in his or her best interest.
- Living Will – addresses such things as your child’s wishes regarding organ donations and life-extending medical treatment. It lays out the procedures or medications you want—or don’t want—to prolong your life if you can’t communicate with the doctors yourself. Having this document in place can help avoid the potential conflict of different family members being at odds about how to handle a tragedy.
- HIPAA Release Form – The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act prevents anyone not named in a signed release from receiving any medical information about another adult, whether that adult is your child or not. We include this form in your advance healthcare directive, to make things extra easy and less complicated.
2. Durable Power of Attorney – This document pertains to financial authority as opposed to medical
The durable power of attorney (DPOA) gives your attorney-in-fact (aka the parent or close relative you would like to designate) all the powers and rights that you do when it comes to financial matters. Your ‘agent’ can Sign documents on your behalf, pay your bills, break a lease if necessary, etc.
Not just for the added security of someone you know and love having your back, but also in unavoidable situations where a student might want to study abroad, go on an extended trip or god forbid is incapacitated to do so due to an accident.
Unlike a general or springing power of attorney, a durable POA is in effect before AND after you’ve become incapacitated. Since that condition is somewhat of a grey area and has to be legally stated by a medical doctor(s), you don’t want to leave a gap of time where you are powerless to help.
Bonus – Want To See Your Child’s Grades?
Well, you can’t. Not unless said child signs a FERPA release form, allowing you to do so. The FERPA release Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.
This law applies to students who attend a school that receives any funding from the U.S. Department of Education. This form is actually provided to you by the school your child would be attending, so there is no need to seek this one out.
Disclaimer: Every state has its own laws and legal form names and inclusions. The information in this article is per Connecticut state laws. If you are outside of Connecticut, please check the laws within the state you live in, for more accurate information.
How To Talk To Your “Adult” Children About Legal Matters
For many parents, December is the time when their empty nests fill up with college-aged children returning home for their holiday break. It is a time of joy, reconnecting, and lots of laundry.
Hopefully, your student’s time away from home was filled with learning and growing in good health. The last thing parents want to think about is that their child might have to be hospitalized while away at school, but it is important to be prepared.
Worse than having your college-aged child hospitalized is hearing from the hospital staff that you cannot receive any information on your child’s status or make any decisions on your child’s behalf.
Hopefully, after 18 long years of raising your children through thick and thin, you’ve developed a certain amount of trust with them. This may be the age where they are breaking free and flying out of the nest, thinking they are more street smart than their parents “supposedly” ever were.
But you may still prove them wrong and earn some cred with this one. Sit them down (bring cookies – no one can resist cookies) and explain the importance of these documents and all the medical and financial implications of being prepared for life on the outside.
Perhaps even set up a meeting with an Estate Planning Attorney to back you up. If they won’t listen to you, sometimes hearing it from a professional outside source could help validate you and your knowledge.
So In between catching up and folding laundry, please take some time this holiday break to discuss with your college-aged child the value of executing these very important documents.
We are here and ready to help! Call us at 860-669-1222 to schedule a consultation and set up your young adult with the best possible jump into adulthood
Marketing Director & Probate Paralegal at RWC, LLC, Attorneys & Counselors at Law
Ukraine born and Israel / Miami, FL raised. University of Miami graduate in the Marketing field.
Mommy to a girl, boy, and a Siberian Husky. Blogger, health & fitness enthusiast, and lover of balance like any true Libra.