Once your young child turns 18, they are considered an adult. Now your child is free to vote, marry, apply for a credit card, make medical and financial decisions, sign contracts, and live independently. No wonder the law calls this coming of age “emancipation.”
But if your adult child is hurt in an accident and needs somebody to make critical medical decisions, you cannot be the one to do that without your child having named you as power of attorney, even if you’re still paying for your child’s health insurance. If that child is so injured that a guardian is needed, you would not automatically be that person. Court proceedings would be required and those are expensive and time-consuming. An authorization for release of protected healthcare information along with a health care power of attorney (called an “Advance Healthcare Directive” in California) would avoid that headache and would give you access to the information about and the legal standing you need, in order to act quickly to help your child in an emergency or crisis.
In money or other legal matters, you will not be permitted access to your adult child’s bank accounts unless your child has made you an agent in a financial power of attorney.
Even if you’re paying for your child’s education, schools are not permitted to release educational records without a signed “FERPA” disclosure statement when your child reaches majority.
Becoming an adult is a major milestone. Your child’s 18th birthday would be a good time to explain about paying bills, getting a copy of the child’s social security card and birth certificate, living independently, registering to vote, and signing contracts to rent apartments, for example, or make major purchases like a car.
Remember to include the powers of attorney (both financial and medical) in that discussion. They are invaluable when your adult child needs you, at a stressful time when you do not want to hear any “no’s.” This important legal planning could save you and your child delay, heartache, and expense.
We would be happy to help you or your child create what we call a “Young Adult Emergency Plan” (click here to learn more), 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 with us to do so. Please contact us or schedule a meeting to discuss your situation. We are here to help.
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Kevin Snyder is a husband, father, and an Orange County estate planning attorney and elder law attorney at Snyder Law, PC in Irvine, California. He's all about family and passionate about estate planning, elder law, and veterans. He founded Snyder Law to help people be prepared and have the peace of mind they are protecting their families and aging parents for when life happens.