Beyond Bed and Bath: What Your College-Bound 18-Year-Old Needs

August 6, 2019Alerts

When your child's legal status changes to adult upon turning 18, your relationship undergoes an invisible but profound change and your ability to “parent” your young adult may no longer exist.

This is because you no longer have a legal right to make decisions for him or her. And you don’t even have the right to see your young adult’s health, financial and education records, under privacy and other laws.

But a few sensible legal documents can help families avoid the hassles and confusion that can arise when a young adult still needs the guidance of a parent.

These actions should be taken now so that you CAN step in to help your young adult make decisions or take action on his or her behalf. 

Before heading off to college, your young adult should do the following:

Appoint You as Health Care Proxy

Your young adult should sign a health care proxy – sometimes referred to as a durable power of attorney for health care or medical directive – giving you (or another trusted adult) the power to make medical decisions if necessary when the young adult is unable to make those decisions, and to receive medical information under HIPAA.

Without such a document in place, you might need court approval to act on his or her behalf if your young adult suddenly becomes disabled, even temporarily. Even in less serious situations, privacy laws may prevent doctors from sharing information about your young adult’s condition if you do not have a signed health care proxy. 

Young adults should keep a card in their wallet or with their phone showing that they have appointed you as their health care proxy and providing your contact information.

Appoint You as Agent Under a Durable Power of Attorney

Your young adult should also sign a durable power of attorney to appoint you, or another responsible family member or friend, as an agent to act on his or her behalf, if need be, in a variety of financial and legal matters. For example, if your young adult is studying abroad for a semester, having a power of attorney could allow you to get information from the embassy or wire money from your young adult’s bank account. It would also be needed if a legal document, such as a lease, needs to be signed in your young adult’s absence.