Congratulations! Your child just turned 18 and is a legal adult. While youâ€™re undoubtedly thinking about college, jobs, and life after high school for your child, you also need to consider some legal documents that are not necessarily intuitive when thinking of 18-year-old but have major life implications.
Youâ€™re probably still supporting your child and will for the next several years. But once they turn 18, you no longer have control over things like medical and financial decisions should something happen. For example, if your child needed hospitalization or other medical care, you have no automatic authority as a parent to make medical decisions and may not even be able to see their medical records. If your child became unable to handle financial matters, you wouldnâ€™t be able to step in and handle it or even have access.
Having the right legal documents in place, just in case, can help you go straight to helping your child rather than fighting through legal issues and going to court. The most critical documents are (1) medical power of attorney, (2) living will, and (3) durable financial power of attorney, which you may already have in place for other family members. Before your child moves out, talk with them about these documents and what they mean, then head to see your estate attorney.
Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney is an advance healthcare directive that allows your child to grant another person the immediate legal authority to make healthcare decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions for themselves. This document would let you (or whoever has the authority) make medical decisions if, for example, your child was unconscious or otherwise couldnâ€™t communicate with medical professionals.
Without a medical power of attorney, you would have to get a lawyer and petition a court to appoint you as a legal guardian before you could make any decisions or even see medical records. With the medical power of attorney, you can immediately help your child. And a proper medical power of attorney will include a HIPAA authorization, so you can access your childâ€™s medical records and have informed decisionmaking.
A living will is an advance directive that provides specific guidance on how medical decisions should be made, especially in potentially end-of-life scenarios. The prime example is whether to remove life support in certain situations and who should be called to the hospital. In addition, a living will can address quality of life decisions for your child and what they want.
Durable Financial Power of Attorney
If something happens to your child, you may need to manage their money and financial decisions. A durable financial power of attorney allows you to manage their financial and legal matters, such as paying bills, handling tuition, applying for student loans, and managing bank accounts. Like the medical power of attorney, if you donâ€™t have this document, youâ€™ll have to go to court.
Start your childâ€™s adult life out on the right foot and make sure they have these basic documents in place. Youâ€™ll show them youâ€™re thinking about their future and you have all your ducks in a row. We are happy to set up a family meeting so we can help you and your kids head into adulthood on a firm legal and financial footing. Give us a call to make sure youâ€™ll have the right to help your adult child if they ever need it.