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Legal Aspects of Turning 18 – A Guide for Parents

December 1, 2023

The journey from adolescence, through the throes of puberty and high school, culminates in a significant legal milestone: the 18th birthday. This age signifies a child’s legal transition to adulthood, introducing new rights and responsibilities. Legally, this transition has profound implications that parents need to understand.

When a person turns 18, they are recognized as a legal adult, gaining various rights such as the ability to make contracts, vote, purchase property, and independently make medical decisions. This phase of autonomy is a critical step in maturation, but it also presents unique challenges for parents, particularly when adult children require parental assistance or decision-making on their behalf.

In this blog, we will explore the legal ramifications of a child turning 18, its impact on parents’ decision-making capabilities regarding legal, financial, and healthcare matters, and the essential tools required for a fluid transition to adulthood.

01 | Legal Changes in Parental Roles Post-Child’s 18th Birthday

The moment a child turns 18, a parent’s legal authority to make decisions on their behalf vanishes almost instantaneously. To illustrate, if your child, now 18 or older, is hospitalized and unable to express their wishes, medical professionals legally cannot disclose your child’s medical information to you. Similarly, financial institutions will not allow you to access or manage your child’s financial accounts without their explicit consent or joint account ownership.

This shift from parental authority to individual autonomy can be disconcerting, particularly if

the child is still financially reliant on the parents, faces a medical crisis, or needs help managing their affairs due to a disability. Fortunately, there are legal mechanisms available to assist parents and young adults in navigating these challenges.

02 | Empower Them with Powers of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a vital legal instrument that enables your child to appoint a trusted individual to make legal or healthcare decisions on their behalf. There are two primary types of Powers of Attorney beneficial in this context: a General Durable Power of Attorney and a Healthcare Power of Attorney.

The General Durable Power of Attorney permits your child to designate someone to oversee their financial matters, should they become incapacitated or require assistance in financial management. This allows you to continue supporting your child with their financial needs post-18.

However, it’s crucial to recognize that not all financial institutions automatically recognize a Power of Attorney. While it’s essential for every adult to have this document, it’s equally important to verify its acceptance with specific

institutions or consider alternative arrangements for immediate access to your child’s accounts. Our team can provide guidance on the most suitable options for you and your adult child.

The Healthcare Power of Attorney empowers a designated individual to make medical decisions on behalf of your child if they are incapacitated. This is critical for ensuring that your child receives the desired care, even when they cannot communicate their preferences.

While only your child can implement these measures, encouraging them to create these documents is a proactive step in maintaining your ability to support them when necessary.

03 | Navigating Privacy with a HIPAA Waiver

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) safeguards the confidentiality of individual medical records. Upon turning 18, a child’s medical information becomes protected under HIPAA, prohibiting healthcare providers from disclosing it to anyone, including parents, without the patient’s consent.

A HIPAA waiver is essential to retain access to your child’s medical information. This document allows healthcare providers to share medical details with specified individuals, like parents or trusted family members.

A HIPAA waiver is invaluable in emergencies, ensuring quick access to vital medical records. It also benefits young adults who may need parental assistance in dealing with healthcare providers during times of illness or when juggling the demands of work or education.

Fostering Adult Relationships Through Open Communication

The transition to adulthood is a pivotal phase for both children and parents. While legal documents like Powers of Attorney and HIPAA Waivers are critical, open, and transparent discussions about healthcare preferences, financial decisions, and parental expectations are equally important.

Encourage your child to consider these legal documents not only for your peace of mind but also for their own protection and autonomy.

We at our firm are ready to assist at any time, especially if you have a teenager nearing adulthood. Contact us promptly to ensure your child is legally prepared for whatever adulthood entails.

If initiating a conversation about these legal tools seems daunting, we can guide you on how to approach the topic with empathy, understanding, and cooperation.

Book a complimentary consultation today to begin, and inquire about our special offer of complimentary legal documents for your young adult when you schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session with us.

Your Estate Planning journey begins with us by scheduling a Family Wealth Planning Session. During this two-hour meeting, you will meet with an attorney to explain how an Estate Plan can benefit you and the ones you leave behind. Schedule your Family Wealth Planning Session today by calling us at 208-733-7200 or by clicking the link here.

This article is provided as a service of Twin Falls Estate Planning. We do not just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. 

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