As you think about the teens in your life and consider those who are about to, or have recently turned 18, parents and guardians may acknowledge the milestone with a hearty “now you’re an adult” declaration. However, there are numerous things that go along with turning 18 that may elude even the most diligent among us as their child hits that mark.
Your child may graduate from high school, obtain a first car, head off to college or embark on a full-time job or vocational training program. And while these are still our children, in the eyes of the law, they are adults. As such, our “rights” to protect them or make decisions for them immediately becomes quite limited.
Parents may be surprised to learn that without some specific documents in place, they will no longer be able to obtain information or help their loved one should they be in an accident or other situation where they can’t advocate for themselves.
Some people have attorneys draft these documents, but generic forms are sufficient and readily available for free online. Read them and be sure you are comfortable with the wording. Here is a list of documents to consider and discuss with your young adult.
HIPAA Authorization: Perhaps your 18 year old is working in another state or will be attending college and needs medical records or assistance making appointments. Ask them to go to the doctor’s and dentist’s office and sign forms that designate agents to act on their behalf. Due to HIPAA laws, information cannot be released without their consent. This is not to be nosey; this is to get information to help if ever needed to assist your child.
This release can also empower your child’s doctor to speak with care providers in other locations should their assistance be necessary. A college or university may additionally have forms as part of their health centers.
Healthcare Proxy: A generic healthcare proxy, or healthcare power of attorney, is the essential document to execute if you consider no other. Massachusetts does not require a healthcare proxy to be notarized, but if your child is moving to another state, check what is required, as a state-specific form may be necessary.
It is recommended to have your 18-year old fill out the proxy, make a copy, put a copy on each parent or guardian’s phone, and put a copy on your child’s phone. This is for an emergency, such as when the child cannot speak for his or herself.
Numerous people have recounted horror stories of their child being whisked to an emergency room for some type of issue, only to not be allowed to have any status information because a proxy was not in place. Don’t wait for an emergency.
If your child is at college, the school will only call you as the emergency contact, but the proxy is between you and the hospital. Mental health issues are also part of this category. Again, this is not to track your child getting a cough drop from the infirmary, rather this is to allow you to participate in life and death decisions should your child not be able to advocate for themselves.
Durable Power of Attorney: A generic durable power of attorney, or financial power of attorney, must also be initiated by the 18-year old, naming parents, guardians, or others as agents authorized to act on their behalf. This gives you access to financial information so that you may participate in the financial side of the equation with a university or other entity in the case that your child is unable to.
For example, if a car title is held by the child, and they are incapacitated by an accident or mental illness, the power of attorney would let the parents act on their behalf to make payments or take other action relative to the vehicle. A power of attorney can be changed at any time should the situation warrant it, such as the young adult getting married or having a significant other who would take on that role.
FERPA: An educational records release which provides for grades, transcripts and such to be shared with parents or designated agents. This access is provided via the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and is available through a college or university.
For example, a notification of missing documents or other materials could impact scholarship or financial awards if not provided. FERPA also protects the disclosure of a student’s educational records to a third party without authorization, but would allow for this information to be shared at the student’s discretion.
And lastly, encourage them to register to vote! Voter registration is easy and may be done at Town Hall.