Your child turning 18 years old is a major legal milestone. Even though you may always view your child as “your baby”, the law regards them as legal adults with all of the rights and responsibilities of that status. While your child can now legally vote, join the military, apply for credit, be selected for jury duty, etc., without proper estate planning, this newfound freedom can impact the parents in important ways:
Access to medical information
As legal adults, parents no longer have the authority to receive medical information regarding their child. If your child is injured while away at school and ends up in the hospital, the hospital is prohibited from providing you with any information about the status of your child. This problem can be remedied by proper estate planning and having your child execute an Appointment of HIPAA Representative.
Power of Attorney
Your 18 year old may not have many assets, but they may have a bank account or car. By having your child execute a Power of Attorney, should your child become incapacitated, this will allow you to act on your child’s behalf to write checks from their bank account, transfer car titles, or even file a lawsuit on their behalf. The Power of Attorney will also allow you to make necessary healthcare decisions, admit them to the hospital or other rehabilitative care, and ultimately decide whether or not to “pull the plug”. Although it is very hard to think of your child in this scenario, keep in mind the well-known legal drama of the Teri Schiavo case.
Most 18 year olds have already accumulated significant amounts of digital assets, such as e-mail accounts, numerous social media accounts, cloud storage, online photo albums, etc. If something happens to your child, you will not have access to these digital assets without proper estate planning such as a Power of Attorney or Last Will and Testament.
Remember, you are never too young and you are never too old to establish your estate plan, but you can be too late.