Congratulations! Your son or daughter has turned 18 and is an adult. Now what do you do?
The law is a fictional world that sometimes bears no resemblance to reality. It allows for the creation of legal entities such as corporations and partnerships and lets them act as if they were natural persons. It has rules of evidence that say that you can’t testify about what someone told you. And it says that teenagers, with all the raging hormones, undeveloped thought processes and general lack of real world experience suddenly, magically, gain all that when the clock strikes midnight on their 18th birthday. Age 18 is when most states say a minor becomes an adult.
That can have some serious consequences. Suddenly, parents no longer have the right to see their daughter’s medical records or talk to her doctor. Parents have no right to check on what money is in her bank accounts. Parents’ consent is not needed for virtually anything the child does.
Suppose your new adult goes away to college and has a medical emergency, such as an appendicitis. You as a concerned parent call the hospital and are told….. The doctor can’t talk to you. The nurse can’t tell you how he’s doing. You have no right to ask for a second opinion.
Suppose your new adult decides to travel abroad. You get a call saying her purse was stolen with all her credit cards and cash. She’s contacted the card issuers and cancelled the cards but she needs you to wire money from her local bank account. You go to the bank and are told….. The bank can’t talk with you. It can’t do what you’re asking. Your daughter needs to come in and sign for this.
Is there anything you as a parent can do? At that point, probably not, but a little forethought and planning might have made either of these scenarios easier.
Advance Medical Directive
For medical emergencies, have your child execute an Advance Medical Directive. This document appoints a Health Care Agent, and grants that agent the authority to speak with medical providers, get information, review charts and consult with the medical providers about the child’s situation. It’s never too early in life for a person to have an Advance Medical Directive.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney is a document that appoints an agent (called an attorney in fact) to act for the person in the person’s absence. While an Advance Medical Directive deals with the person, the durable power of attorney deals with the person’s property. It allows the agent to deal with banks and other third parties regarding the person’s property. Armed with a durable power of attorney, you could arrange for the bank to transfer money to your daughter.
Most young adults don’t think of estate planning because they feel they have nothing to plan for. In many respects, this is true. Until they marry or start accumulating assets, there might be little need for traditional estate planning. But as these examples show, there are good reasons for young adults to have some sort of plan in place.