College freshman everywhere are settling into their residence halls and high school seniors are eagerly anticipating being next. Moving on to college is an important milestone for young adults, but it is important not to lose sight of other turning points along the way as parents and students prepare for college. An important checkpoint is the student’s 18th birthday – the point in time when the law sees the student as a full adult, whether or not the student is still living at home or even still in high school.
This birthday has many implications, but one of the most important – and most often overlooked – is that parents no longer have any inherent legal authority over the student. So, in an emergency, telling medical professionals that you are someone’s parent will not allow you to make medical decision for them. And if a student goes abroad, simply being his or her parent won’t allow you to sign tax returns or leases for the coming year on their behalf.
There is a simple solution – every young adult, upon reaching age 18, should consult with an attorney and have three important documents drafted for him or her: a Durable Power of Attorney, a Health Care Proxy, and a HIPAA Authorization. These documents, if properly drafted and executed, will allow a young adult to decide who should have the power to make which decisions for him or her if needed, and will provide both the student and the parents with a great deal of peace of mind.
Many thanks to Jennifer Taddeo, ESQ, for providing this article.