Many of you have high school juniors or seniors who are about to embark on the next chapter of their life.  Did you know that once your child turns 18, they are no longer considered a minor under the law? Reaching the age of legal majority gives your child the right to make many decisions without your permission. These rights include the right to vote, marry, enter the military service, obtain medical treatment, and to enter into contracts.  The law also grants all adults, including 18 year olds, the right to certain privacy protections of which you may not be aware.  These privacy protections require that your child’s healthcare information, school records, and financial information not be shared with anyone without their consent.  So what does this mean for you? It means even though you may be fully supporting your child financially, your access to their protected information will come to an abrupt halt on your child’s 18th birthday.


Based upon our experience as Estate Planning attorneys, we recommend that all adults, even 18 year olds, have certain legal documents in place.  These documents include:


  • A Durable Power of Attorney- this document allows a person to name an Agent(s) to act on their behalf regarding financial transactions and decisions if they are unable to do so.


  • A Healthcare Power of Attorney- similarly, this document allows a person to name an Agent(s) to act on their behalf regarding health care decisions if they are unable to do so.


  • An Advanced Directive/Living Will- this document allows a person to state their wishes regarding the withholding and withdrawing of life prolonging measures in the event they can no longer make their own health care decisions and are terminally ill, permanently unconscious, or suffer from advanced dementia or other irreversible loss of cognitive ability. This document can provide invaluable direction to a family member facing one of the toughest decisions of their life.


18 year olds should also consider executing the following documents:


  • A HIPAA Release Form- this document allows a person to direct a healthcare entity to disclose and/or discuss protected health information to another person. Most healthcare providers have their own specific HIPPA release that must be signed to allow another individual access to their protected healthcare information.  If your child wants you to have such access, check with the healthcare provider for the appropriate form.


  • A FERPA Release Form- this document allows a person to direct a school or university to disclose and/or discuss protected educational records to another person.  Protected educational records include but are not limited to grades, transcripts, class lists, student course schedules, health records (at the K-12 level), student financial information (at the post-secondary level). A FERPA Release is usually school specific, so you should contact the school to get the appropriate form.


If there is ever a need for you to act on the behalf or make decisions for your adult child, these documents would allow you to do so.  Without these documents, the process to obtain the right to act or make decisions will involve significant time, money, and could potentially involve public court proceedings.


While your child is still at home, take the time to talk about the rights and responsibilities of being an adult.  Ask them to consider executing these documents so that someone could help them if they were incapacitated or otherwise unable to make decisions on their own.


The Estate Planning team at The McIntosh Law Firm would be happy to help your son or daughter get these documents in place.  Please feel free to give us a call if you have any questions or would like to set up a time for us to talk with your child.  You can reach us at 704-892-1699.



Amy Holthouser, Attorney

The McIntosh Law Firm