Congratulations, parents of recent high school graduates! The hard-earned diploma marks a significant milestone not only in your child’s life but also in yours. As your child prepares for the next exciting chapter, it’s crucial to remember that your child turning 18 has big legal significance.
In the eyes of the law, 18 marks the age of adulthood, and this transition brings certain shifts in legal rights. For instance, you’ll no longer have automatic access to their healthcare, school, or banking records without their consent. I believe it is very important that kids learn to be independent, but limited parental guidance is usually helpful. To balance independence and guidance, I have found it smart to have the young adult meet with an attorney and make important basic planning decisions in their own best interest. This offers them some autonomy and experience dealing with professionals while also putting into place some protections. To navigate these changes smoothly and ensure the safety of your child, here are some essential steps to take before they spread their wings:
Set Up an Advance Healthcare Directive
An Advance Healthcare Directive is a legal tool that enables your child to designate a healthcare agent. Assuming that they have a good relationship with you, that could be you. This will allow you to access their medical records and make critical healthcare decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated. It’s also important for your child to sign a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) form, which will permit medical professionals to share health information with you. It’s important for your child to understand that they can revoke the healthcare directive at any time, which means they aren’t giving up control. If your child does execute an advance directive, keep an digital copy on your phone and your child’s phone, and also be sure the child’s primary medical provider has it on file.
Set Up a Financial Power of Attorney
I have found that 18-year-olds usually aren’t very smart with money and financial decisions. I don’t say that to be mean, but it’s usually true. Having a wise parent “lightly” involved in helping develop financial literacy is essential. Further, if your child goes on a trip and gets stuck overseas, it is important for someone to be able to access their financial accounts if necessary. Like the healthcare directive, a financial power of attorney can be revoked by the child, but it’s a great protective tool your adult child can put in place.
Install an ‘In Case of Emergency’ App on Your Child’s Phone
It’s also wise to add an ‘In Case of Emergency’ (ICE) app to your child’s phone. If you go to the APP store on yours or your child’s smartphone, you’ll see several vendors for this type of application. This app prominently displays your contact information on their phone’s homepage. Additionally, you can create an ICE contact in their phone contacts. Given that young adults are more likely to have their phone on them than a printed card or document, this can be crucial in an emergency.
In summary, these legal considerations and the use of modern technology will ensure your peace of mind as your child transitions to adulthood. The world outside the nest may be daunting, but with the right planning, you can ensure their safety even when they’re far from home. Just as importantly, you are planting a seed in your young adult child that proactive planning is a good grown-up thing to do. Gaining a trusted attorney contact can be a big step toward responsible adult decisions beyond just these basic steps.