The Legal Documents Every Parent Needs When Their Child Turns 18
By Ann D. Blakey, CFP®
As summer is over and kids have returned to school, a whole new class of teenagers have turned 18 and are starting their lives as adults! This milestone comes with both pride and worry. “What if something happens and I’m not there?” is a common concern. But what many parents don’t know is that as soon as their child turns 18, they no longer have the same legal rights to know what’s going on—medically, financially, or academically.
This is true even if your child is still living under your roof, or still going to high school. In the eyes of the law, an 18-year-old has the same right to privacy as any adult. Your child must grant you permission in order for you to access their personal information through a series of legal documents. It’s so important to have these completed as soon as your child turns 18, but it’s especially important if your child is attending college away from home.
Here are three main legal documents parents should consider to have as your child approaches 18.
A healthcare proxy gives you permission to access your child’s medical records and make decisions on their behalf should they be unable to do so. This is important in the event of a medical emergency. It may seem counterintuitive for healthy parents to plan for the illness of healthy children, but that is precisely the best time to do it. The last thing any parent wants is to be denied access to potentially life-changing medical information during an emergency, especially during a global pandemic! Be sure to check your state’s specifications as some states require the healthcare proxy be witnessed, while others require notarization.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prevents unauthorized individuals from accessing another adult’s medical information. As soon as your child turns 18, they are considered an adult and will have to grant you access to their information by filling out a HIPAA release form. It can be filled out on its own, or incorporated into a larger legal document such as a healthcare proxy. If it is a standalone document, it does not need to be witnessed or notarized.
It’s important to note that HIPAA releases only give you permission to access your child’s medical information; you will not be able to make medical decisions with only a HIPAA release. For medical decisions, a healthcare proxy is required.
A durable power of attorney covers everything else outside of medical rights. It will grant you access to your child’s financial records including bank and credit card accounts, tax returns, and car registration. Not only will you be able to access the information, but you will also be able to make decisions and fill out forms on your child’s behalf. This is particularly important in the event of incapacity, but it can also be used in more benign situations, like your child is studying abroad and needs to make sure their tax return is filed on time.
It’s recommended that an estate planning attorney prepare these types of documents in order to make sure you are fully covered; but as we all know, time is scarce, and it can be both inconvenient and expensive to use an attorney. If this is the case for you, there are several web-based resources like LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer, Mama Bear Legal Forms that can provide additional information and helpful guides about these documents and more.
At Washington Wealth Advisors we understand that the most exciting moments in life can also come with the most questions. We can help make sure you and your child are covered when they turn 18 by ensuring all the right documents are in place. Call our office at 703.584.2700, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or schedule a meeting with Ann to get started today!
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