When children reach the age of eighteen, they are “emancipated” and considered adults for legal purposes. Parents of children who are legal adults are no longer able to automatically make medical decisions on their children’s behalf, access their medical records, or take any other action for their benefit if the adult children are unable to do so on their own.
Clients must consider raising with their adult children the necessity to complete a Health Care Proxy, Durable Power of Attorney, and an Authorization for Release of Protected Health Information to provide the parents with the authority to act with respect to their medical, legal, and financial needs if they are incapacitated or otherwise unable to handle their own affairs.
Such situations have arisen with clients whose adult children are away at college. If there is a medical issue with an adult child the parents may be barred from receiving information on their adult child’s medical condition simply because the child did not authorize the parent in a general HIPAA release.
Young adult children maintain their own financial accounts and affairs. Parents may be unable to assist in their adult child’s affairs without court order if not already named in a power of attorney.
Many clients remedy this situation by ensuring that the presents they give to their children on their eighteenth birthday include legal documents empowering them to assist their adult children in the event of an emergency.