Turning 18 and becoming a young adult is one of the most significant milestones in our lives, at least legally. This coming of age moment opens new opportunities to vote, enlist in the military, and even serve on a jury. But like Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Gone are the days where you were able to make all legal, financial, and health care decisions for your child as their guardian. Now your young adult child has the sole power and discretion to make these decisions or delegate them to whomever they deem appropriate. It’s okay; we just wept a little with you.
As attorneys (and moms!), when we think of eighteenth birthdays, we think of all the necessary legal documentation your child needs. We think of the automatic right to privacy and autonomy now bestowed upon your new 18-year-old. We think of the pediatrician who now looks to your child for answers rather than you. Or the school or college that will not allow you access to your child’s records without your child’s consent. Let that sink in. By virtue of a single birthday, this young adult is now viewed as holding the answers to all the questions asked. If your now adult child wants or needs your help, you cannot help without proper documents in place: Power of Attorney and Health Care Surrogate, or Guardianship/Guardian Advocacy.
Before you continue reading, if your child is developmentally disabled, please read the blog we wrote for special needs children turning 18. There are some pretty big differences between the legal requirements. Now, without further ado, Power of Attorney!
Power of Attorney and Health Care Surrogate
The Power of Attorney allows your child to give decision-making authority to you, a grandparent, or a trusted advisor over any business, legal, and financial transactions. It is important to note that your child will continue to make all these decisions themself, and if their decision is opposite to what you would personally decide, your child’s decision reigns supreme. However, if your child is unable or does not want to make the decision, you can act on their behalf.
For example, your child gets the opportunity to study abroad. With the power of attorney, you can manage their monthly bills or request travel documents they left sitting on the desk back home. You could purchase real estate, make investments, or renew their vehicle registration. The possibilities are numerous; but more importantly, the Power of Attorney provides security should something tragic occur and your child become temporarily or permanently incapacitated. Rather than rushing to the courts to obtain guardianship to make decisions for your child, you can immediately set in and continue making their decisions with no lapse in time. The last thing you want to do is have your child’s credit destroyed while they are healing or recovering.
In addition to a Power of Attorney, your child will need a Health Care Surrogate and HIPPA Release which is designed to allow others to make health care decisions if your child is incapacitated with injury or grave illness and allows that person access to privileged health information. Should your child suddenly be injured or ill to the extent they cannot consent to health care treatment, the health care provider will go to the next of kin (who they can find) to make decisions. A Health Care Surrogate designates who your child wants to be the next in line to make decisions and in what order. This can be particularly important, albeit uncomfortable if your child’s parents are divorced, separated, or have a difficult time making co-parenting decisions. It’s not something anyone likes to think about, but it happens. With a HIPPA Release, the named surrogate could be an informed decision-maker who may share details about the family medical history.
Power of Attorney and Guardian Advocate do not always cross state lines. Making sure you have what you need to protect your child can be tricky if you’re not an expert. At McCart and Tesmer, we deal heavily in Family Law as well as Guardianship. If you have any questions about Power of Attorney, Guardian Advocate, or any other documents you’ve heard can help your adult child, please give us a call at (813) 498-2757 to schedule your legal consultation today. Our law firm is well versed in all types of family law, and if you need advice on legal documents for developmentally disabled adult children turning 18, please refer to this blog for tips and tricks necessary for you and your child.