Important Adult Steps for Your 18-Year Old Graduate to Take

Now that your 18-year old has graduated from high school and is preparing for college or the workforce, it is important for your now adult child to take some necessary, but often overlooked, adult steps. Before your child turns 18, you certainly have the right to conduct your child’s financial and educational affairs, to access your child’s medical records, and to make health care decisions for your child. Once your child has turned 18, you are no longer legally entitled to conduct your child’s financial, medical, and educational affairs. Before your child goes off to work or college, it is critical that your child put in place the following documents.

Advance Health Care Directives. Under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), your child’s health care records are confidential, and you no longer have access to them. The HIPAA laws prevent you from receiving any information from your child’s health care providers unless your child has authorized the provider to disclose that information to you. If your child suffers an injury or illness that makes your child unable to make his or her own health care decisions, the health care providers may not be able to disclose to you information about your child and may not allow you to make medical decisions for your child. To avoid potential court proceedings and the associated legal expenses, your 18-year old child should execute a Health Care Power of Attorney and name a Health Care Representative who can make health care decisions on his or her behalf at any time your child is unable to do so. Your child can also execute a HIPAA Release authorizing health care providers to disclose your child’s confidential health care information to you and any other individuals of your child’s choice.

Durable General Power of Attorney. You also are not authorized to manage or access your 18-year old child’s finances. If your child were to become incapacitated through illness or injury, you generally would not be able to pay your child’s bills or otherwise manage your child’s financial affairs without court authority unless your child has executed a Durable General Power of Attorney authorizing you to do so. If your child designates you as his or her agent (known as “attorney-in-fact”) to handle his or her financial affairs in the event of incapacity, your child may also give you authority to provide assistance with his or her finances at times when that would serve the convenience of your child, such as when your child is away at college or traveling abroad.

Last Will and Testament. If your child has assets of his or her own, your child may also benefit from putting a Will and/or other estate planning documents in place to ensure that your child’s assets pass to the beneficiaries your child wishes to receive them, taking such issues as asset protection, tax considerations, and probate costs into account.

As you complete your child’s graduation events and turn your attention to his or her future plans, be sure to encourage your child to take the steps necessary to execute Advance Health Care Directives, a Durable General Power of Attorney, and, if needed, a Will. These will ensure that your child has valuable assistance in his or her times of need