When Your Child Turns 18 You Need These Legal Documents

Before your 18-year-old heads out the door, ensure that you have the legal documents in place to protect them. Accidents and illnesses happen to everyone, including young adults, and you want to be able to speak to healthcare providers, keep informed and help make decisions for your teen if the need arises. 

Here’s what you need to know when your teen turns 18: There are three forms that facilitate the involvement of a parent (or whomever is designated) in an emergency or other situation.

I used Mama Bear’s legal forms when my son left for college. It was easy, quick, and inexpensive. Grown and Flown is an affiliate. The Young Adult Power of Attorney Package includes all of the documents your child needs for only $79 (less 20% with our link). If your child is going to be out-of-state a second set for that state is included.

Follow our link here and get 20% off your documents by entering the promo code GROWN&FLOWN at checkout

There are forms you need when your child turns 18 (Shutterstock: Steve Cukrov)

What You May Need In A Medical Emergency

1. HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) authorization (also called a HIPAA release)

This is a narrow document in that it permits healthcare providers to disclose your teen’s healthcare information to you or anyone they specify.

This document alone will often suffice to get information from the healthcare institution treating your child. In a HIPAA authorization, young adults can stipulate that they don’t want to disclose information about sex, drugs, mental health, or other details that they prefer to keep private. As with the broader healthcare proxy, a HIPAA release can include a Living Will.

2. Health Care Proxy (also referred to as a healthcare agent or medical power of attorney, a healthcare power of attorney, or durable power of attorney for health care)

A Health Care Proxy authorizes whomever is designated to make medical decisions on your teen’s behalf, giving the person access to the teen’s medical records and the ability to converse with their healthcare providers. By appointing you as their healthcare proxy, your teen is enabling you to act on their behalf in making medical decisions in the event that they are unable to make those decisions for themselves.

Each state has different laws that govern the execution of a healthcare proxy (state laws differ on whether a medical proxy has to be notarized or merely witnessed). And, therefore the legal form you sign will be specific to the state where it will be used. HIPAA authorization is rolled into the standard medical proxy form in many states. In addition, a healthcare proxy can include a Living Will, or you can execute a separate document stating your wishes for end-of-life medical treatment.

3. Durable Power of Attorney (Durable POA)

This document enables a designated agent (in this case, a parent) to make financial decisions on the student’s behalf. The POA can provide that power vests in you immediately after signing the document or only if your child becomes incapacitated.

The POA enables the designated agent to, among other things, sign tax returns, access bank accounts, pay bills, make changes to your child’s financial aid package, or figure out tuition problems. Durable POA forms vary by state. In some states, the medical POA (or, as we called it, the healthcare proxy) can be included in the Durable POA.

Each state has variations on these forms and how they can be combined, so you MUST consult your state’s laws or speak to a local attorney who practices in this field.

When Should You Get These Documents?

You should prepare these documents beforehand because it may take time to get everything in order, including notarization (although not every state requires notarization.) Once kids take off for school, it may be hard to get their attention, so be mindful of that. But your child can only sign these forms after they turn 18.

What Else Does Your Teen Need to Do When They Turn 18?

When your teen reaches the age of 18, even though you may still think of them as children, under the law, they have now achieved adult status. That status allows them to vote, serve in the military, serve on a jury, sign a contract, and get married without consent. Although they still can’t do certain things, like drink alcohol or rent cars, their legal status is decidedly different than it was at 17.

  1. All males with US citizenship (with few exceptions) must register for the selective service upon reaching 18.
  2. Although not mandatory, this is an excellent time for your kids to register to vote.
  3. When your children turn 18, you no longer automatically have the authority to make healthcare decisions for them. And this is true even if your health insurance still covers them and you are paying the bill. If your child has an accident or illness and is temporarily disabled, you may need court approval to act on their behalf or even inform them of their medical status.
  4. Even though you are paying for their education, the FERPA law says you can no longer access your child’s grades once they turn 18. That’s right, you can call the registrar and ask to see your 18-year-old’s transcript, and they will not share it with you even though you’re signing the tuition checks.
  5. You can no longer manage money for your children once they turn 18.

Follow our link here and get 20% off your documents. (ENTER PROMO CODE GFSAVE25 AT CHECKOUT)

As parents, we always hope we won’t need these forms, but it’s always better to be prepared if we do.

More Great Reading:

‘Adult Paperwork:’ A Must for Our Newly Minted 18-Year-Old Adults

50 Things You Can Do When You Turn 18 (Who Knew?)

I used Mama Bear’s legal forms when my son left for college. It was easy, quick, and inexpensive. Grown and Flown is an affiliate. The Young Adult Power of Attorney Package includes all of the documents your child needs for only $79 (less 20% with our link). If your child is going to be out-of-state a second set for that state is included.

About Helene Wingens

Helene Wingens has always been passionate about painting pictures with words. She graduated from Brandeis University with a degree in psychology and three years later from Boston University School of Law with a Juris Doctor. In a year long clerkship for an appellate judge Helene honed her writing skills by drafting weekly appellate memoranda. She practiced law until she practically perfected it and after taking a brief twenty year hiatus to raise her three children she began writing a personal blog Her essays have been published in: Scary Mommy, Kveller, The Forward, and Grown and Flown where she is Managing Editor. You can visit Helene's website here

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