If you’ll be dropping off your young adult (who, depending on the day, may still seem like a child) on a college campus this fall, you probably have a long checklist to help them complete first. Along with the laptop and the dorm supplies, it’s important that certain essential documents—giving you authority to act on behalf of your child legally, financially and medically—also make the list.
These documents are vital in the event that your child becomes sick or injured—and especially critical if s/he struggles with substance abuse or emotional issues that can impair their ability to make medical and legal decisions. Rucci Law Group recommends the following four documents be created for 18-year olds:
1. Authorization for Release of Protected Health Information, which allows medical institutions to release medical records to a parent.
2. Durable Power of Attorney, which allows your child to appoint an agent to handle health, legal and financial responsibilities as needed.
3. Health Care Proxy, which authorizes someone else to make medical decisions if necessary.
4. Living Will, which designates end-of-life choices for your child.
While your child may always be a child in your eyes, at the age of 18, s/he is considered a legal adult—which means that hospitals and other institutions will not let you make decisions for them without these documents in place. Keep in mind that your child may actually see these documents as another step toward independence. You can bridge the gap with an honest conversation. Remind your child that life is risky and these documents provide protection, and encourage them to read the documents fully. The Durable Power of Attorney is especially important—it gives you the ability to make decisions for your child without taking away the independence they crave as they begin this new and exciting stage.