When a child turns 18 and heads out on their own or leaves for college, parents no longer can legally help them with many aspects of their life. It’s not easy to think about what could happen if your child is injured or becomes severely ill, but it is important to plan for these situations. Planning ahead can give the parent and their child the peace of mind to know that everything is set up and ready to go in case a need or an emergency arises.
Why are Legal Documents Needed?
Once a child enters adulthood, the parents are no longer able to help with medical, financial, or other decisions. Legally, the parents can’t talk to medical professionals about their child’s health, banks or lenders about their child’s financial system, or the school about how the child is doing. While this usually won’t be an issue because the child can handle everything or provide permission as needed, there are some situations where it’s crucial for the parents to have legal documents in hand stating they can speak on their child’s behalf.
If an accident or illness occurs and the child is hospitalized or otherwise incapacitated and can’t handle their medical decisions or finances on their own, the legal documents allow the parent to step in and help. Without these documents, the parents have no ability to speak with doctors, use the child’s bank account to pay the child’s bills, or talk to the school to let them know what happened. With the following legal documents in place, the parent has the ability to do all of this to help while their child recovers.
When to Obtain Legal Documents
These legal documents can be obtained and signed at any time after the child turns 18. However, it’s a good idea to go ahead and get the forms needed, fill them out, and sign them as soon as possible. It’s hard to predict what will happen in the future, so it’s always better to do this as early as possible and be prepared instead of ending up stuck without the necessary documents when they’re needed.
Some of the most important legal documents to obtain before the child leaves home include the following:
Medical information is protected through HIPAA. When a child is a minor, the parents have the right to access their medical information and records. Once the child turns 18, though, the parent no longer has access to this information. If something does happen and the child can’t make decisions on their own, having the ability to do so can allow the parents to step in and make sure their child’s wishes are followed. A HIPAA authorization form is needed for the parent to be able to access the medical information and records, so these can be used to make medical decisions for the child once they’ve turned 18.
Healthcare Power of Attorney
HIPAA allows parents to receive medical information about their children, but it doesn’t provide the power to make medical decisions. This is where a healthcare power of attorney document comes into play. A power of attorney can be set up to only be valid in certain situations. It may only start if the child is incapacitated and end when the child is able to make their own medical decisions once more. For children with chronic ailments, the healthcare power of attorney may begin immediately and be unending in case there is an emergency at any time. Once a power of attorney is in effect, the parent will be able to make medical decisions for their child.
Living Will or Advance Directive
Older parents may already have their own living will that dictates what they want to happen if they are ever injured or ill and unable to communicate their wishes. In general, this is information that states what should happen if the person is in a vegetative state and unlikely to recover. Children, once they are 18, can have a living will, too. This allows them to write out what they’d like to happen if the worst happens to them and how they’d like their medical care and end of life handled. A copy of this should be provided to the parents, so the child knows their wishes will be followed if anything ever happens.
General Power of Attorney
Similar to a healthcare power of attorney, a general one can begin whenever it’s needed and end when it’s no longer necessary or can be ongoing. With a general power of attorney, however, parents can make more decisions for their child and may have access to more information about the child. If a child is hospitalized and can’t take care of their finances or other concerns on their own, the parent can use the general power of attorney to help them. With this, depending on how it’s written, parents may be able to access their child’s bank account to pay bills or perform other tasks on behalf of the child.
If an accident or illness occurs and the child passes away, a simple will is needed to determine what happens to all of their belongings and any assets they might have at the time. This type of will is called a simple will because the child may not have a lot of assets or belongings that need to be handed if they pass away. Without a will, the child’s estate will need to go through the state’s legal process, which could take quite a bit of time to complete. With the will, the parents or another executor can go through everything and make sure it ends up where the child wants it to go. This can help simplify the process, even if the child doesn’t have a lot of assets when they pass.
Once a child is 18, FERPA no longer allows the parents access to educational information about the child. In emergency situations, this information may be needed to alert the school to an extended absence or help set up accessibility assistance once the child is able to return to the school. The way for a parent to be able to access this information is through a FERPA waiver. By signing the waiver, the student allows the school to discuss educational information with the parent should it be necessary. The waiver should be signed by the child as soon as possible, instead of waiting until it might be needed so that the parents can have the access they need if they need it.
When a child turns 18 and moves out, their parents no longer have the legal ability to help with medical, financial, and other decisions unless these documents are in place. It’s important for parents to know what they need in case there is an accident or any other issue that causes the child to be incapacitated and unable to handle everything on their own for a period of time.
If your child is in an accident and needs representation, you should seek help from Latin Law Firm in Atlanta, GA. A personal injury lawyer can help with navigating the legal issues that can arise if an accident occurs. Having the aforementioned documents in place can be pivotal to your child’s future and legal case.