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Estate documents you need because parenting doesn’t stop when your child turns 18

August 10, 2020

Posted in Estate Planning

Parents are often amazed when their children finally become adults. Turning 18 is a celebratory milestone, and no doubt the experience will leave you wondering how the years flew by so quickly. And even though your child will always be your baby in your eyes, once they turn 18 the law sees it very differently.

At the age of 18, parents are immediately barred from accessing any health, education or financial records for their children, and they’re no longer allowed to make any legal decisions on the child’s behalf unless you and your child have formally documented otherwise. And since many 18-year-olds are heading off to college for the first time, this loss of parental control can introduce some unexpected challenges. Whether your child gets themselves into financial trouble, is failing a class but hasn’t told you or, worse, has been admitted to the hospital, without the right legal documentation in place you’ll no longer have access to the information necessary to help.

But you can prepare ahead of time by adding the following four documents to your estate plan to designate you as the legal representative of your child. This will allow you to maintain access to vital information to help them make decisions.

Financial Power of Attorney

This document allows you to continue to act on your child’s behalf in regard to finances. Here are two very different yet equally important reasons you may need this:

  • Assisting in financial affairs. You will continue to have access to your child’s financial matters, such as tax deadlines, credit cards, contractual obligations and other time-sensitive financial decisions that might get overlooked by your young adult.
  • Taking over financial affairs. Should your child become incapacitated, this would allow you the ability to continue to pay bills, sign checks, make deposits, sign tax returns and more on your child’s behalf. Without one, your family will need to spend time and money on probate court to get a financial power of attorney assigned.
  • HIPAA Healthcare Authorization The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a law that keeps medical information private by denying any third-party inquiries into one’s current medical conditions or medical records. This includes questions or information requests from you about your adult child. Having a HIPAA authorization form on file essentially cancels out this law and allows you to maintain access to information so you can to stay up-to-date on any procedures, conditions or healthcare issues.
  • Health Care Power of Attorney (Health Care Proxy) A healthcare power of attorney allows you to make healthcare decisions on behalf of your adult child and typically doesn’t kick in unless the child becomes physically or mentally incapable of making decisions on their own. Most parents will never utilize this document, but it’s one you’ll be grateful to have should you ever need it.
  • FERPA Educational Authorization This document allows you to access all of your adult child’s educational records, including transcripts, disciplinary actions, scholarships, tuition and any medical records maintained by an institution’s health clinic.

Since turning 18 marks the beginning of true adulthood in the eyes of the law, having the appropriate documents in place can help you and your child better navigate this transitional time period and avoid any unexpected consequences. If you have any questions regarding the benefit of these documents or how to move forward with them, please reach out to us.



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