It is wonderful to bring up children, make sure they are educated, and see that 18th birthday come along. However, it is important to recognize that many things change from a legal standpoint, according to grbj.com in “Give your graduate the gift of legal documents.”
Before your child turned 18, authorities and institutions automatically deferred to you in case your child could not speak or act for him or herself. This is no longer the case after they turn 18, when you no longer have automatic access to medical, financial, and educational information about your child. In addition, you are no longer authorized to make medical or financial decisions, even if they are injured or incapacitated.
Here are recommended steps to take so parents can still be involved in their children’s lives when they are needed in case of emergency, illness, or incapacity:
In Case of Emergency Contact. Make sure you, or another trusted adult, is listed as an ICE (“in case of emergency”) contact on your child’s cell phone. ICE contacts can be accessed by medical personnel without the password to unlock the phone.
Health care proxy/medical power of attorney. Even if you are the person paying for your children’s health insurance, you are not legally permitted to make decisions for them. Have your newly adult child sign a proxy/power of attorney form for health care designating who has the primary authority to make health decisions if he or she is unable to do so. This is especially important when parents are divorced: both parents need to have the proper forms. Your estate planning attorney will be able to prepare these for you.
HIPAA authorization. Medical providers may not disclose a patient’s medical status unless they have legal permission. Your child should sign a HIPAA authorization with each of their providers, giving the parent access to all their information. This is especially necessary for a child with health or mental issues.
Durable power of attorney. If your child has signed a durable power of attorney for finance, you will be able to handle their financial matters. Even though they are young and may not have a lot of assets, they may have bank accounts, credit cards, and rental leases in their name. In this day and age, you should also add power over digital assets to the power of attorney to cover online accounts for financial institutions, schools, and email accounts.
FERPA waivers. This one takes many parents by surprise. Even if you are the one paying for tuition and all college expenses, the college will not provide academic records, including grades and tuition bills, to the parents without permission due to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act. Contact the college and find out exactly what forms they need to be sure you have access to all of your children’s information, including any health and mental health treatment.
Wills and trusts. If a child has assets and no descendants, they need a will or revocable trust just like any other adult with significant assets. This can serve to protect the size of the parent’s estate for federal tax purposes, and allow them to designate a specific person to manage these assets if they die prematurely.
There are a few other things you may want to go over with your child and discuss with them once they turn 18 to set them up for success:
Medical records. Make sure the child has access to their medical records, including medications, allergies, immunizations, etc.
Insurance. See if the family’s medical, homeowner’s and auto insurance coverage extend to a child living away at school and in another state. If the child is renting a house or apartment, make sure they have renter’s insurance.
Proof of identity. Make sure the child has access to their passport, birth certificate and/or Social Security card so they can get an internship or a job.
Bank accounts and credit cards. If the family’s regular bank does not have a branch where the child is attending school, the parents should consider opening a basic checking account at a local branch. Parents can consider placing both parents and child onto the account.
Registration. It’s time to register to vote and men will need to register with Selective Service within 30 days of their 18th birthday.
One of the best ways to prepare your child is to go over these topics with them once they reach legal adulthood. Bring your child with you to see an estate planning attorney who can advise you on any additional documents needed for your family.
Reference: grb.com (June 7, 2019) “Give your graduate the gift of legal documents.”