Planning To Start Your 18 Year-Old Off Right


WWatching your children leave home to start a career or attend college is a big step for you both. It is an emotional time, excitement for them, fear and anxiety for you. It is a major accomplishment for your child which should make you proud. However, when your kids leave home and face the world and their future it can cause anxiety and fear. Do some planning to calm those fears.

Whatever your feelings, when your children reach the age of 18, they are legal adults. So many of the areas of their life that you controlled or handled for them will be their legal responsibility. Therefore, something you would not think of as a top of the list for your new adult is estate planning, but it should be. This is because you no longer have automatic access to their financial and medical records. On the drive to the new apartment or dorm room, discuss the following documents and how important they are to you both.

1. Medical Power of Attorney
Medical power of attorney is an advanced medical directive that allows your child to authorize an agent, you or someone else, legal authority to make healthcare decisions on their behalf should they become incapacitated and cannot make these decisions for themselves. When a HIPAA release is included, you then can have access to your child’s medical records whereas without that release you do not have access to those records, parent or not. A medical power of attorney would allow the agent to make decisions about your child’s medical treatment should they become unconscious from an auto accident or go into a coma from an illness or accident.

If the above scenario happens without a medical power of attorney, you must petition the court to become their legal guardian. A parent is typically the court’s first choice, but you must go through the legal process and this can be slow.

2. Directive to Physicians & Family a.k.a Living Will

Like it or not, they are adults and may have strong views regarding their life and how they leave it in the event of a terminal illness or accident.

A living will provides specific directives about how your child wants medical decisions made on their behalf while they are incapacitated, specifically end of life decisions. The difference between the medical power of attorney and living will is the medical power of attorney is geared more toward someone serving as your child’s agent during a temporary illness or time of incapacity, not end of life decisions as the living will is used to state your child’s wishes.

For example, a Directive to Physicians and Family lets your child decide if they want life support removed, if they ever need it. This directive can include instructions on who can visit and how they should be fed, if they have dietary restrictions.

Like it or not, they are adults and may have strong views regarding their life and how they leave it in the event of a terminal illness or accident.

3. Durable Financial Power of Attorney
In the event of incapacity (or even convenience) your child can appoint you or someone they trust to help them manage their financial affairs if they become incapacitated. To have access to someone’s financial accounts your child must legally grant someone that authority to act on their behalf. In the event of incapacity, you may need to apply for Social Security benefits on your child’s behalf or access to their bank accounts. You cannot do these things without their legal authority to do so because they are now an adult. Without this document, you would have to petition the court for such authority.

Adulthood is an exciting and anxious time. Your 18 year-old must make decisions for themselves and you can no longer legally do it for them. Encourage your child to make sure that someone can act as their agent should something happen. You will then have some peace of mind that they can be quickly taken care of in the event of an unforeseen illness or accident.

Article contributed by Lasca Arnold Pendley
Law Office of Lasca A. Arnold, PLLC
926 E. Blanco Rd.
Boerne, TX 78006


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