As your child turns 18 (depending on the state), it may be difficult to comprehend that the child who once depended on you for everything has become an adult overnight. Now they are free to vote, marry, apply for a credit card, make medical and financial decisions, sign contracts, and live independently. No wonder the law describes this coming of age as “emancipation.”
Health Care Power of Attorney
But imagine your adult child is hurt in an accident and needs somebody to make critical medical decisions. You can’t be the one to act on their behalf without your child naming you as power of attorney, even if you’re still paying for their health insurance. If your child is so severely injured that a guardian is needed, you would not automatically be that person. Court proceedings that are expensive and time-consuming would be required first. If your child has a health care power of attorney naming you as their agent, it would avoid guardianship and give you the authority you need to instruct medical professionals on their behalf. You may also have your child sign HIPAA release forms to access medical records.
Financial Power of Attorney
In money matters, you will not be permitted access to your adult child’s bank accounts unless your child has made you their agent in a financial power of attorney. This document allows you to pay bills, file taxes, make investment decisions, collect debts, and manage property.
Accessing Educational Information
Even when you’re paying for your child’s education, schools will not release educational records if they haven’t received a signed Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) disclosure statement when your child reaches majority.
The Age of Majority
Becoming an adult is a significant life milestone. Different states have varying ages of majority. In general, your child’s 18th birthday would be a good time to explain about paying bills and getting a copy of their birth certificate and social security card. Other aspects of living independently include registering to vote, signing contracts to rent apartments, or making major purchases like a car. They’ll be prepared with the right information to carry out basic responsibilities.
Remember to explain powers of attorney in your child’s “coming of age” discussion, or take them to see your family’s estate planning attorney. These forms are vital during stressful situations involving accidents or illness when your adult child needs you. Make sure that when critical decisions need to be made, no one can tell you “no.” Powers of attorney could avoid delays in care, emotional heartache, and additional expenses.
We would be happy to help your child with the proper powers of attorney, as well as other planning needs that become more urgent as we grow older. If you’d like to discuss your particular situation in a confidential setting, please schedule time for a consultation with our estate planning professionals.