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Estate Planning for when Children Turn 18

Estate Planning for when Children Turn 18

August 04, 2020

If you are a parent, its often a bittersweet feeling seeing your children finally age into adulthood. Every parent likes to view their child as their baby, but once they turn 18 the law sees it much differently.

At the age of 18, parents are instantly prohibited from accessing health, education, or financial records for their children, and they are no longer able to make any legal decisions on the child’s behalf unless they have formally documented otherwise. Adding to the issue is many 18-year old’s head to college around this age, decreasing the amount of parental controls in place which can lead to many difficulties. Whether your child finds themselves in a financial crisis, is failing a course in college, or has been admitted to a hospital or worse jail, without the correct legal documentation you will no longer have access to this information.

You can prepare before they become adults by utilizing the following documents in your estate plan to designate yourself as the main legal representative of your child. This will enable you to maintain vital information to assist them in making tough life decisions.


A Financial Power of Attorney enables you to act on your child’s behalf in regard to their financial affairs. This means you may continue to make decisions regarding their tax deadlines, credit cards, contractual obligations and other time-sensitive financial decisions that might be missed or forgotten by your child.


The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a law that keeps medical information private by denying third party inquiries regarding an individual’s medical records or conditions. This includes questions from you about your child. You can prevent this by having a HIPAA authorization form on file, which allows you to access your child’s health and medical information.


A Health Care Power of Attorney (Health Care Proxy) enables you to make health care decisions on behalf of your child, but it normally is not activated unless your child becomes incapable of making their own decisions.


The FERPA Educational Authorization is a document that enables you to access your child’s educational records, which include transcripts, scholarships, disciplinary outcomes, and health records maintained by the health clinic at the educational institution.


Since the legal beginning of adulthood is 18 years old according to the law, having the applicable documents in place can help you and your child better navigate this developmental time period and avoid any unexpected decisions or consequences. Hopefully they will make good decisions on their own but with proper documentation, you can step in when and if needed.