Documents Needed When a Child Turns 18


You child is almost 18. The college application process is in full swing. Senior year final exams are coming up. But many parents do not realize that once their child turns 18, the parents can no longer make legal decisions for their child absent express written agreements.

Without these documents, parents will not be able to obtain information about their child. Child being treated in the hospital? Parents cannot get medical information without written agreements providing permission from their child to share their medical information.

Consider a health care power of attorney for your child. Most people think of these within the estate planning realm and mostly for older adults, but a standalone health care power of attorney can be put in place when a child turns 18. A health care power of attorney permits a parent to make medical decisions on their children’s behalf when that child is unable to do so on their own. A health care power of attorney may be narrow or broad (and some states have state-specific requirements), and gives the parent the proxy ability to act on their child’s behalf. If a child goes to school in a different states than where the parents are domiciled, it is advisable to have a power of attorney in both states.

Another recommended document for children is a HIPAA authorization. HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. A HIPAA authorization permits the child to state who may receive their medical information, and how much (or how little) information those individuals may receive. For example, a child with a chronic condition may elect for their parents to be given information that they are receiving treatment, but not specific information such as thyroid levels.

Similar to a health care power of attorney is the financial power of attorney. Unlike a healthcare power of attorney, a financial power of attorney permits the parent to make financial decisions on their child’s behalf. For example, assume the child is involved in an automobile accident and is in a coma, but is likely to make a full recovery. A financial power of attorney permits the parents to step into their child’s place and pay bills, make investment decisions, and do whatever financial decisions are granted to them in the financial power of attorney.

To discuss an of these documents or estate planning in general, please contact Benjamin Long of Schmidt and Long.