What Legal Documents Should You Have When Your Child Turns 18?


Grown and heading to college, teens should have everything they need to launch life on their own. While parents have worked hard to prepare their children for the future, children may still need help from their parents occasionally. Once the child turns 18, though, the parents can’t access a lot of the private information they used to be able to obtain since the child is considered a legal adult.

There are forms that can be filled out and signed by the child and the parent to make sure the parent has access to information when needed. If the child is in an accident or otherwise incapacitated for a period of time, having these forms already filled out can ensure fast access to information needed and the ability for the parents to make decisions on their child’s behalf until the child is better. Some of the forms that may be needed once a child turns 18 include the following.


Medical POA Forms

If the child is severely injured and can’t control their own healthcare, help is needed. A parent doesn’t have any say, though, once the child turns 18. A medical power of attorney (POA) form does fix this and provides parents with the access needed to the child’s medical information and the ability to act on behalf of the child. With the form filled out, the parent will be able to make medical decisions for the child and discuss the child’s medical care with the treating physicians.

This form should be filled out when the child turns 18, though it won’t be active until the child is incapacitated and can’t act on their own behalf. If the child is injured or becomes ill and can’t advocate for themselves, the form can be activated and allow the parent to step in to help. In most cases, there are very clear guidelines in the form that dictate when it will become active and when a power of attorney ends for the parent.

Financial POA Forms

When a child turns 18, parents do not have access to their financial information any longer, with exceptions like shared bank accounts. If the child can’t make financial decisions on their own for a period of time, the financial POA forms allow the parents to help. Similar to the medical POA forms, the financial POA doesn’t go into effect until it’s needed, and the time it is valid can be limited based on the child’s needs.

The financial POA forms should be filled out when the child turns 18, like the medical ones. If the child can’t handle their finances for a period of time, the form is activated, and the parents have the power to speak with financial institutions or creditors on their child’s behalf and make financial decisions to help their child through this period of time. Once the child is able to handle their own finances again, the power provided by the form ends.

Educational POA Forms or FERPA Release

Educational reports and information is also constricted once the child turns 18. Though the parents may be paying for their child’s education, they do not have the ability to access information about their child’s grades, attendance, or financial status at the school. A FERPA release allows parents to get this information for their child and will need to be signed and provided to the school before the information is shared.

In some cases, parents may need to contact the school to discuss their child. If the child is injured and will miss a significant amount of school, for instance, they’ll need to have an education POA form to discuss the issue with the school and create a plan to help their child get back on track once they are recovered. Without the FERPA release and the educational POA forms, the parents do not have the ability to discuss anything with the school and can’t help the child if there is an emergency.

HIPAA Releases

Though the medical POA forms do provide parents with the opportunity to help with medical decisions on behalf of the child, the parent is still limited in the information they can receive about their child. Plus, the POA only comes into effect in certain situations. In everyday situations, children may need help from their parents or would like their parents to be able to receive medical information to help with making decisions.

In these cases, an HIPAA release will be needed. HIPAA releases generally have to be filled out for each medical care provider before they go into effect, and the form will dictate how long the release is in effect. Parents may want to have their child fill out this form for each medical provider they see, so the parent can help with anything that’s needed as the child learns to do it all on their own.

Living Will

No parent wants to think of a situation where they’ll need to provide end-of-life care for their child, but it does happen. When it’s time to make these decisions, what would the child want? Would they prefer to be kept alive as long as possible, or would they prefer not to be resuscitated? A living will is not a form that needs to be filled out for legal power or to be able to do anything, but it does provide the information parents will need when making medical decisions for their child. With the living will, the parent has the information they need to know what the child’s preferences are and how they’d like their medical care handled.

Organization of Forms

Many of these forms need to be presented to be used, so having them somewhere handy is crucial. Today, there are tons of organization options for parents and children to use, which helps to make sure they can be accessed if needed. Physical copies should be kept by the parent and the child, just in case they’re needed. Have at least two copies, so there is one to keep at all times and one ready to provide to medical, financial, or educational providers as needed.

Digital copies should also be kept. Though they may not have the seal a legal document has, and the physical copy may be required, a digital copy can provide faster access to information or the ability to make decisions in an emergency. The physical copy can always be provided later, and the digital copy can be used to know what the child would want and how the parent is able to help if needed.

It is important for both parents and children to have a copy of all of these forms. The child’s copy provides them with information about when the forms can be used, when they’ll become active, and when they’ll expire. The parent’s copy provides them with proof of the POA or the ability to access information as needed, especially if there is an emergency situation and they need to help their child with medical or other decisions immediately.

Accidents and illnesses can happen at any time, so it’s always a good idea to be prepared just in case the worst happens. While parents want their children to thrive and enjoy college and everything that comes after, they may also want to be prepared if anything does happen.

The Law Offices of Ken M Frankel in Pompano Beach, Florida, provides personal injury assistance to parents and children.  Having these documents in place will ensure that the parent can fight on behalf of their adult child. If you or your child have been injured in any sort of personal injury accident in Pompano Beach, Florida, The Law Offices of Ken M Frankel can help.  Give us a call today at 954-799-4529 or visit us at Law Offices of Ken M. Frankel for your free case consultation.