Not long ago essential documents for 18 year olds included a driver’s license and a passport for your semester abroad. Essential documents for young adults now include Health Care Proxies and Living Wills. Colleges often request that these be filed before moving into college housing. This shift reflects a change in legal requirements regarding privacy for all medical patients regardless of age.

Once a child turns 18, you as a parent have no legal right to make medical or treatment decisions without documents that provide explicit authority. Although it seems hard to believe, a hospital or emergency room is not required to notify you if your young adult requires treatment or needs to make complicated medical decisions. It may be difficult for a parent to obtain medical records or even to provide assistance during a medical or emotional crisis.

Essential documents provide you with the authority to act on her behalf in legal, medical and financial areas if your child is sick or hurt. It is particularly important to have authority to act if a child has issues with substance abuse or emotional issues, either of which can impair decisions made by the child regarding medical and legal issues. Rucci Law Group recommends the following four documents be created for 18-year olds:

1. Authorization for Release of Protected Health Information authorizes medical institutions to release medical records to a parent.

2. Durable Power of Attorney allows your child to appoint an agent to handle health, legal and financial responsibilities as needed.

3. Health Care Proxy authorizes someone else to make medical decisions if necessary.

4. Living Will designates end-of-life choices for your child.

Most children will see the creation of these documents as another step toward independence and it is important to treat your child with the respect due a young adult. Helping a child recognize that life is risky and these documents are for her protection may increase cooperation. Additionally, respect your child enough to insist that she read and understand each document. It is especially important that Durable Power of Attorney be agreed upon so that a teenager doesn’t see this as the parents effort to control him or her through college.

Michele Gartland joined Rucci Law Group LLC in early 2015. She practices in the areas of trusts and estates. Michele can be reached at 203-202-9686 or at