What’s the best gift you can give your child on their 18th birthday?

Helping to secure a plan for their future.

Now that your child has turned 18, (and is officially a legal adult) it’s time to start doing some “adult” planning. Adults have a right of privacy that is different from what children enjoy. As a parent, you were the automatic proxy for your child’s private healthcare information, meaning, you could have access to it. When they turned 18, that access expired. 

Now, your child has to grant you access to their healthcare information and the right to make decisions on their behalf if they are not able to do so for themselves. It is unsettling to say the least, when you first realize this barrier exists. 

I know this isn’t a fun thing to think about and that the subject is sensitive. But —  if you’ve ever wanted a roadmap to help with parenting, (especially now!) you’re in luck. Today’s blog is going to cover all the legally essential aspects of planning for the new “adult” in your house. My hope is to empower you and your child so you can make informed decisions about the future.

Embracing The New Adult in Your Home

Congratulations to you and your child for “leveling up.” Whether they have just turned 18, finished high school, are headed to college, the military, or their first job, this is a big moment for you all. As with any new stage, there is some paperwork to get them off to a smooth start, and prepare a safety net in case things don’t go as planned.

We already mentioned that your child now controls the access to their own healthcare information. They also have autonomy over their healthcare choices and financial information. That means in an emergency, a physician might not be able to tell you what is going on with your child. They might sign an agreement or acquire debt that you don’t discover until they are incapacitated and you have no authority to manage the situation.

If they’re in school, you may be paying the bills, but you don’t have access to their grades unless they sign the appropriate release. 

Parenting didn’t get easier, the challenges just changed!

Although you can’t control the actions of your 18 year old, you can have an open dialogue with them. Open and honest communication is key in creating a secure plan for their future.

Now if you’re lucky, the first time you run into your “child’s” new privacy rights will be at a regular health check up.  The doctor will glance at the chart, notice that your child is now 18 and tell you (the parent) to return to the waiting room. Unless of course, your child executes a written HIPAA release naming you as a person to share information with. 

For some unlucky parents, that scenario will play out in an emergency room somewhere and the physician may refuse to discuss the situation with you because you aren’t the natural guardian anymore. And I really don’t want that to happen to you. So I’m going to give you the inside scoop on what legal documents your young adult should have in place.

3 Essential Legal Documents to Have in Place

At 18 your child still needs you to be their back up eyes and ears — and maybe even their advocate. Especially if they’re in a position where they can’t make their own choices. However, there are 3 key legal documents (prepared by an attorney) that can make emergency situations a little easier.  Just like any other adult, your 18 year old needs: a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, a General Durable Power of Attorney and a HIPAA Release.

  1. Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare: This legal document is for naming the agent making medical decisions for your child if they’re unable to. When these documents are signed they’ll take effect immediately, or be activated if your child becomes incapacitated. Whoever is chosen will be authorized to make healthcare decisions for your 18 year old.
  2. General Durable Power of Attorney: This legal document gives the agent the power to handle finances if your child loses the ability. They can also deal with the insurance companies. Whoever is chosen as the agent is granted authority to act on behalf of your young adult, should they become incapacitated. 
  1. HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996): HIPAA is the release form we all sign (at least once a year) at every health care institution we visit. Your estate planning attorney can draft a release where your child authorizes you to receive any of their healthcare information. Bonus: it isn’t tied to a specific provider or institution and it doesn’t expire!

Without these documents, a parent would need to obtain a court order naming them as the guardian and conservator of their child in order to perform these functions. The last thing you’d want is to waste time and energy you don’t have while your young adult is facing a medical emergency!

These documents can of course be changed as needed.  Your teen can rest assured that naming mom and dad as their agent doesn’t mean they’re giving up their right to privacy for all time.  It does show the mutual trust between parents and their child.  It also lets them know that while they may be in the driver’s seat, you always have their back.

Guiding Your Young Adult Through The Planning Process

Involving your young adult in planning for a secure future requires open communication, collaboration, and the right resources. This will help make things a lot easier in the long run! 

You might be wondering, “how do I even start this conversation?” You’ll want to start by explaining how important it is to have a plan in place in case of an emergency. Really highlight the fact that it allows them to have control over their personal wishes.

Next, tell them about the key components of planning for a secure future that I discussed above (Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, General Durable Power of Attorney, and HIPAA.) Explain to your 18 year old how each of these things play a vital role in protecting their wishes.

You’ll definitely want to acknowledge that this is a sensitive subject for your young adult. Nobody likes to discuss these things. Make sure you give them as much emotional support and reassurance throughout the process. Always encourage your child to ask questions or bring up any concerns they may have.

Help is at Hand

Having a professional guide you with securing your child’s future will ensure that everything is covered (and give you some peace of mind!) That way, you and your young adult can easily get answers to any questions you may have. At Schroeder Larsen Law, we pride ourselves on effectively helping our clients with planning for their future. Don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation!

Prefer to chat on the phone or over email? No problem.

Email: kirsten@schroederlarsenlaw.com 

Phone: 816-550-0644