Once a child turns 18, they’re legally an adult. That means their parents no longer automatically have authority over their medical care. If they’re in an accident or fall ill, you wouldn’t have the right to even get information about their condition under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). You also wouldn’t be able to make decisions about their care if they’re unable to speak for themselves.
Some legal documents typically associated with estate planning can give you that authority if your child wants you to have it.
Here’s what estate planning can do for your 18-year-old
Your child can designate you (or whomever they choose) as their health care agent (also known as a proxy.) The health care agent has power of attorney (POA) over their medical care decisions if they aren’t able to make those decisions themselves. A health care agent is also able to get information on their condition from their medical providers.
When your child has the document drawn up to designate their health care agent, they may also want to put an advanced directive for health care in place. This document allows them to express their wishes for what kinds of treatments and life-prolonging measures they do and don’t want to be taken and under what circumstances. It’s a good idea for everyone to have one of these, as it can save family members from having to make decisions based on what they think their loved one would want and it can minimize intrafamily disputes.
It may be wise for them to name someone to have POA over their finances as well if they’re unconscious or otherwise unable to take of them. This can help ensure that any obligations like student loans and credit cards can continue to be handled while they’re incapacitated.
With legal guidance, it’s relatively easy to put a few documents in place that can give you (and your teen) peace of mind as they go out into the world.