If you’re the parent of a high school graduate this year (cue Pomp and Circumstance music), then congratulations! You’ve put in a lot of time, effort, and love toward their earning that diploma, and whatever their next step in life will be, you likely want to protect them just as much as you did while they were still in high school.

But before you pack that kid off to college, the workforce, or send them off to whatever new adventure they will be going on, you need to know that when they leave, they will be taking some new legal rights with them.

You will always be their parent, but once your child turns 18, they are no longer considered a child in the eyes of the law. That means you no longer have the legal right to access their health care, school or banking records without their permission. That will be frustrating, aggravating, and possibly have dire consequences.

Here are some steps you should take before your child leaves the nest that will help ensure their safety and your peace of mind:

Create an advance healthcare directive. Once your child is officially an adult, they need to have an advance healthcare directive and an authorization for release of medical records (HIPAA waiver) for you to be able to access their medical records and make medical decisions for them in case something happens to them and they are rendered incapacitated. This is essential in case of an emergency where you would want to be able to talk to your child’s doctors and have a say in the direction of their medical care.  If you don’t, you can and will be blocked out.

Use technology. The American Bar Association has a free app for iPhone and Android called “My Health Care Wishes” that allows you to store an advance directive and other important documents on a smartphone. The app comes in two versions: the Lite version stores a PDF version of an advance healthcare directive and HIPAA form; the Pro version ($3.99) provides more functionality, including the ability to email documents. There are also online solutions like such as DocuBank and Everplans that store medical records and allows those to be accessed by medical professionals anywhere in the world.

Add an ICE app to your child’s phone. Add an ICE (In Case of Emergency) app to the home page of your child’s phone that lists your contact information and also create an ICE listing in his or her phone contacts with this information. Your child is much more likely to always have their phone with them than to carry a printed card or document.

Review the legal responsibilities of adulthood: Becoming and adult brings new responsibilities and consequences. Make sure your child as the foundation they will need to understand and fully appreciate their legal responsibilities as an adult. Whether going to college or entering the workforce, your child is going to be presented with new situations and opportunities that high school classes simply did not cover. They will also have more legal power and authority to do things they were prevented from doing before such as voting, joining the military, entering into contracts, and opening up credit cards to name a few. The last thing you want for your child is to find themselves in physical or financial danger or in a legal bind simply because they just did not know what to expect. The California State Bar provides a survival guide for teenagers turning eighteen that explains some the laws, responsibilities, and consequences that apply to your child at this turning point into legal adulthood.

Contact us and we are happy to send you a digital copy.  While you are at it, schedule an Estate Planning Session so we can sit down and talk about the best ways for you to protect your new high school graduate and the rest of your family now and in the future.

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