It is walking the fine line between controlling our children and accepting those things that are out of our control. As our kids grow and mature those lists change and evolve as they rush towards their own adulthood.
The 18th birthday is a major milestone event and a bright (although not solid) line between childhood and adulthood. This means that not only can your “child” exercise greater freedoms and enjoy some previously barred activities, they also have new responsibilities and face different consequences for bad acts and poor decisions. It is also a time of change for mom and dad, something many of us find easy to forget.
Your 18-year-old child can now skydive, bungee jump, get a tattoo, go to clubs and gamble. Here’s the kicker. If they run into trouble either financially or medically, you cannot have access to their financial or medical information unless they have specifically authorized it. Remember those HIPAA forms you sign every time you take your child the physician? Now, by law, your child must sign a release for you to have access to that information. The same applies to their bank accounts and other financial information, unless you are a joint owner of the account.
So where is the parental line now that they are 18? How much control should you still have and how do you hold on to it?
The first step is a discussion with your son or daughter about these new rights and responsibilities. You child may relish the idea of having this self-authority and may not understand the implications. Here is what he or she needs to know.
HIPAA and Medical Power of Attorney. Your teen may be focused on the privacy aspect of closing parental access to medical information. What they need to understand is in an emergency, they may not want or be able to make competent decisions regarding their own care. If a parent doesn’t have a release permitting the doctor or health care provider to speak to the parent and a durable power of attorney, the parent cannot help with those decisions and important care may be delay. Even worse, if the teen is incapacitated, it is too late. A parent will have to seek an order from the court appointing them as guardian of their child, in order to make those important, possibly time-sensitive decisions.
Financial or General Durable Power of Attorney. Again your teen may want to keep their financial information private, but in the event of an emergency, especially incapacity, time could be crucial for managing the financial life of a young adult. Without that power of attorney, a parent would need a court order to access the child’s accounts and manage the assets on behalf of the child.