When most people think about the legal changes that occur when someone turns 18, they focus on the rights that someone gains. When your teenager becomes a legal adult, they gain the right to control their own life. They can sign up for the military, vote in elections and legally get married.
However, there are certain things that they lose and will need to address. Specifically, they lose the protection provided by their parents or guardians. When someone turns 18, their parents may not be able to properly support them in an emergency.
New adults usually need an estate plan to protect themselves even if they have no dependents and no valuable assets to their names yet.
Medical documents are key for young adults
Someone who has just turned 18 can no longer count on their parents to make medical decisions for them in an emergency. Doctors and other staff members at the local hospital will not be able to share medical records with the parents of someone over the age of 18, let alone allow them to make life-or-death medical choices on behalf of the patient. Especially when a young adult has no intention of marrying anytime soon, they probably need to draft powers of attorney when they turn 18.
At the very least, a medical power of attorney can name someone they trust to have authority their major medical decisions in the event of their future incapacitation. They can also fill out advance directives explaining their medical preferences. Many people also fill out special Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) paperwork giving their medical agent the right to access their records.
Without these documents in place, a young adult who experiences a medical emergency may be left at the mercy of the medical system with medical care that does not reflect their values or wishes.
Talking with young adults about such emergencies isn’t easy
As a parent who has a teenager at the cusp of adulthood or just over the age of 18, you may already be acutely aware of your child’s efforts to separate themselves from you. They may question your motives about filling out medical paperwork because they don’t want to give up control over their own health care.
The best solution is to ensure that your teenage child understands what’s at risk and that they don’t have to name a parent as their medical agent. Choosing an older sibling or another relative that they trust might be a good solution if they are still feeling the effects of teenage rebellion.
Recognizing the legal risks that face you and your family will help you have the right estate planning documents in place should you ever need that support.