14 May

They grow up so fast, don’t they? Even if your children are still young, it’s always worth planning ahead. And if your child has just taken that step from minor to adult, you’ve got some work ahead of you. Beyond looking at colleges and high school graduation, there are some far-reaching legal changes to be aware of. When they are reaching this age, make sure to have a chat with them about what these changes are and then talk to an attorney about the new documents they’ll need. 

The Legal Changes When Your Children Turn 18

At the age of 18, your child is considered an adult in the eyes of the law. This fundamentally changes your relationship with them legally, and the ability for you to help and protect them in emergency situations becomes limited. Specifically, you can no longer receive medical information about them, make medical decisions for them, or assist with their legal and financial matters. 

The Legal Documents You Should Prepare for Your New Adult

To help prepare your children for these circumstances, work with an attorney to get them these three important documents when they turn 18: 

  • Durable Power of Attorney: This document nominates an agent to make legal and financial decisions for your child if they were incapacitated due to illness or injury.
  • Health Care Proxy: This appoints an agent to make medical decisions for them if they were incapacitated, typically related to procedures and medication.
  • HIPAA Waiver: Under the Health Insurance Accountability and Portability Act (a.k.a. “HIPAA”), when your child turns 18, their medical information is private. This document allows you access.

For more information on these three documents, check out my post about The Legal Documents that Every 18 Year Old Needs

Changes to Your Will and Other Legal Documents

Your child may not be the only one who needs to get new legal documents. You may want to adjust your estate plan now that your child is an adult, including your own incapacity planning. Many clients begin to integrate their adult children into more significant roles of their plan, such as health care agent, personal representative, or trustee, for example. It is important to review your estate plan with your attorney every few years to ensure that it will work the way that you intended and to update pieces to reflect your changing family. 

Other Legal Milestones for Your Children

Of course, 18 isn’t the only year there can be changes that will affect both you and your child. Here are two others that you should plan for. 

Age 22 For Special Needs Children

After a child with special needs turns 22, they face “the cliff”: a transition from being supported by your school system to adult services provided by the state. This includes things like SSI, but it is also a time where you need to help secure your child’s financial future with a supplemental needs trust, letter of intent, and other legal documents. 

Age 26 for Health Insurance Coverage

Another date that can sneak up on you is insurance coverage! The Affordable Care Act extends your health insurance coverage to your child until age 26, but after that time, they will need their own. Make sure to help them get the coverage they need. We know you may have questions, which is why we're always available to help. Mulhall Withrow specializes in helping families with minor children make sure they get all the protections and support they need, even after they become adults. From guardianship to special needs planning, reach out to me to schedule a consultation today!