In the eyes of the legal and financial world, an 18th birthday represents a major shift. Motley Fool Contributing Writer Michele Lerner’s latest DailyFinance story, “Parents: Are You Legally Ready for Your Kids to Be Adults?” utilizes tips from McManus & Associates to show families steps that should be considered when a child turns 18. From the article:
John O. McManus, an attorney and founding principal of McManus & Associates in New York, says that parents need to be aware that once their children turn 18, regardless of how many things stay the same, legally, a lot changes. For example, parents of legal adults are no longer automatically able to access their children’s financial or medical accounts or information, and they won’t be allowed to make medical decisions on behalf of their offspring. However, parents can take steps to smooth the transition into adulthood, and to make sure they can continue to help their kids when needed.
McManus says that because parents cannot automatically take action to benefit their adult children in the event they need medical care or are incapacitated, he suggests that families:
- Have their adult offspring complete a health care proxy that give parents the right to make medical decisions if their child cannot.
- Have them assign a durable power of attorney so that that parents can handle financial and legal issues on behalf of their kids if needed.
- Complete an authorization for release of protected health information so that parents can provide this information to medical personnel and use the information to make decisions on behalf of their kids.
“These issues take on extra urgency if your child is away from home in college or out of the country on a semester abroad,” McManus said. In such cases, he recommends learning about the health care system in the country where your child will be living to understand the differences between private and public hospitals and any restrictions on international insurance. “Colleges will not release a student’s medical records, even to parents, if the student is over 18,” he said. “This may be extremely detrimental to a child’s well-being in a physical or emotional medical emergency. Advance planning can facilitate communication between the foreign hospital and parents.”
For advice about financial education and tasks that build on what children learn about money before turning 18, read Lerner’s full write-up here. For additional important legal matters to consider as a family, review our recent conference call, “Top 10 Ways to Protect Children Under 18 and Over 18, Stateside and Abroad.”