Parental Rights Change When Children Turn 18

By Jessica Searcy Kmetty

A child turning 18 is as much a milestone for them as it is for their parents or guardian.

When your child turns 18, they could find themselves in a variety of life stages. They could be heading off to college, starting a job and forging out on their own, or even still be in high school and living in your home.

For parents, no matter where your child finds themselves at this age, you will now be in a position where information about them isn’t available to you. At 18, parents are abruptly cut off from their child’s protected information, such as medical, financial and academic records.

I recently found myself in a situation where it would have been helpful to have some legal documents in place. My 17-year old son just started college and was still underage, so I had to sign off on him seeking medical care. He broke a bone and is on my insurance, but by the time the bills arrived, he had turned 18 and I wasn’t able to access needed information about the case. Luckily, this was a mild case where my son was alert and able to make decisions on his behalf or consult me, when needed.

But, what if he wasn’t? Or, what if we face a more serious situation in the future?

This is why a HIPPA waiver, a medical power of attorney, or general power of attorney are beneficial.

A HIPPA waiver allows medical professionals to share information, access to medical records and medical/treatment information with a parent or named individual. A medical power of attorney appoints a parent or named individual to make medical decisions on the person’s behalf.

A general power of attorney may also be relevant, depending on how much you do on behalf of your adult child. Do you assist with bills? Do you assist with rent? Do you pay college expenses? Is your child studying abroad? There are many reasons you may want to have more overarching access and ability to act on their behalf.

You do not want to wait until a situation arises to start thinking about these documents. It can cost time, money and undue hardship if you wait until you’re in an unwanted situation. You may have to seek guardianship to make decisions if you don’t already have a plan in place.

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The content of this letter does not constitute a tax or legal opinion. Always consult with a competent professional service provider for advice on tax or legal matters specific to your situation. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed in this content, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  

Published for the blog on October 27, 2021 by Searcy Financial Services, your Overland Park, Kansas Fee-Only Financial Planner and Investment Manager.