Legal Issues For College-Aged Children

Your child turned 18 and suddenly no one will talk to you? Not school personnel? Not your child’s physician? Billing departments for medical bills or other accounts? The control you had yesterday to manage these things for your child is suddenly gone. Why?!

If this hasn’t happened to you yet, don’t be surprised when it does. Yes, I said when it does. You see, that moment your baby turns 18, they, in the eyes of the law, have become adults. Immediately – right then – they must become responsible for themselves, legally. Right?! I know. In theory, that’s great, but in reality, they still need us. And, mostly for the serious types of things.

As frustrating as it is, it truly is a quick fix. Your ability to continue to handle their affairs – their doctor appointments, their schedules, their bills, etc.- can all be remedied with the execution of a Durable Power of Attorney and HIPPA Authorization. The Durable Power of Attorney is a legal tool we use to allow someone, in this example your child, and referred to as the “Principal” nominate someone else, in this example you, and referred to as an “Agent” to handle their financial affairs. I use financial affairs loosely, because this document can grant a wide range of authority, from handling the principal’s banking powers to their retirement benefits, from directing their mail to signing a mortgage.

The HIPAA Authorization is another tool we use that, when signed by the principal, lists certain persons, that the doctors and other medical personal can discuss their medical care with. Now that your child is an adult, they now have a new sense of autonomy in the eyes of the law and that medical personnel is likely to ask you to leave the room. Don’t be surprised or angry. Simply hand them this document that grants them the authority to speak with you about your child’s medical care.

To make the once-had, now-lost, authority complete, I would also recommend a Medical Durable Power of Attorney. A Medical Durable Power of Attorney is different from both the Financial Power of Attorney and HIPAA Authorization discussed above. This legal tool deals primarily with making medical decisions on behalf of your child, when they cannot otherwise make their own medical decisions. So long as your child is alert and competent, they will have the ability to make their own decisions medically from this point forward. You cannot change that. BUT, in the event of a tragic accident or need during surgery, this Medical Power of Attorney is used to nominate someone – generally mom and dad at this point – to make their decisions for them. Without this document, the medical personnel will look to the ‘next of kin’ to make that medical decision. But the process of determining who is the ‘next of kin’ can take some time and when you are dealing with a life-threatening medical issue, the last thing you want to do is have to prove your child has no children or spouse, and that you are the true parent, etc.

If you have a child approaching the age of 18, or has passed it already, and you are frustrated with spinning your wheels, give us a call. We have a plan that is just right for you to continue carefree in your parenting.

For more information, please contact a Kreise Enderle Estate Planning attorney.

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