Three Must-Have Documents Your 18-Year-Old Needs to Sign

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Minnehaha Falls, Minneapolis, MN

My daughter, Laura, and I recently went to Minnehaha Falls to take some pictures and enjoy one of Minneapolis’ most iconic landmarks.

It was an especially warm July day. After hiking for a couple hours we decided to take a break and grab a bite at the Sea Salt Eatery, the popular pavilion-style restaurant known for its great food and long lines.

After standing in line for some time, Laura mentioned that she wasn’t feeling well. I didn’t expect what happened next.

A moment later she collapsed in my arms and was lying unconscious on the floor. She woke up just a few seconds later, confused and disoriented, but OK. Apparently the heat had gotten the better of her.

Laura, who is prone to fainting, recovered quickly after drinking some water and cooling off. We’ve been extremely blessed to have experienced few emergencies with our kids.

As the parent of a minor I have the legal right to access her medical information and make medical and other decisions on her behalf. If this had been a more serious situation I would have been legally entitled to act on her behalf and obtain detailed information about her medical condition. Since she is only 13, that makes sense.

But what if you child is no longer a minor? As the parent of an adult child – one that is 18 years old or older – your rights are very limited.

Below are three must-have documents your 18-year-old needs to sign.

HIPAA authorization. This document allows medical professionals, hospitals and clinics to share certain medical information with others as specified in document. Like many legal documents it can be all encompassing or more restrictive, depending on your needs and how much information is to be shared. Without it you may have limited access to information about the condition of your child and the treatment she is receiving if she were to end up in an emergency room or other medical facility.

Health Care Directive. A HIPAA authorization will allow you to access medical information about your adult child, but it won’t allow you to make medical decisions on her behalf. To do that you need a health care directive. A health care directive informs others about your wishes regarding your health care. It also appoints another person to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so. The Minnesota Department of Health website has a great Q/A for those who need more information on what a health care directive is all about and why you should have one.

Power of Attorney. A power of attorney or POA document grants another person the right to act on your behalf, usually in non-medical situations. I often recommend spouses have a POA for one another in the event that the other spouse is incapacitated in some way.

With a POA others can act on the instruction of the “attorney-in-fact” just as if they received instructions directly from you.  Your kids are no exception. Even though you are their parent, you have no legal right to act on their behalf unless they give it to you in writing. If they get into financial trouble, legal trouble or just need some help from Mom or Dad, your ability to provide that help may be very limited without the proper documentation. A legal Power of Attorney document will give you the written, legal authorization to act on their behalf.

Where do you get these documents?

If you work with an estate planning attorney, start with them. Most of these documents are straightforward and require little time on the part of the attorney. So the cost to draw them up should be relatively low.  An attorney can help you in situations where you want specific language in your documents. For example, a Power of Attorney document can be limited to certain situations or under particular circumstances. Your attorney is in the best position to advise you on exactly what documents you need and what powers they should to grant.

Many of these documents can be downloaded and completed on your own, without the help of an attorney. For example, you can download a Minnesota Short Form POA by clicking here.

Other states, institutions and organizations are not required to recognize the forms you are using. In some cases, they may have their own paperwork or documents. If your kids attend college, the school they attend may have their own forms and documents as well. If so, get them signed and keep them on file.

Likewise, if your 18-year-old lives out of state, that state may have their own particular set of forms to complete.

Do it now. Whether you work with your attorney or create these documents on your own, make it a priority to get them signed as soon as possible after your kids become legal adults. And keep them handy. Even the most basic document will be better than having no documents at all.

You may think this is going overboard. As long as nothing goes wrong, you may be right. But often that’s not the case.

As the saying goes, “stuff happens”.