Risk Of Adulthood – Turning Eighteen

Hi there, my name is Bridget Mackay. I’m an attorney in Petaluma, and I practice in the area of estate planning, probate, trust administration and elder law. Today I want to talk to you about turning 18. What are some risks of a new adulthood? For those of you who are watching, this is sort of mostly targeted at parents. But for those of you who are 18, there’s a piece in here for you too, so you should be listening.

For you parents, it probably seemed like yesterday that your children were taking their first steps, and now they’re turning 18 and making their way in the world. Whether they are off to college or are becoming independent and living out on their own, there are some risks that they face that can be planned for. Once your child turns 18 or the age of majority, you may no longer make any health or financial decisions for them. Should something horrible befall them, you would in many situations be powerless to help. I know this is difficult even to consider that something would happen to your child or something bad happening to your child, but it is important to protect them at this stage of their lives. You’ve brought them this far, you might want to think about making sure there are things in place as they go out in the world on their own. You might have every expectation that they’ll be safe at college or out in the world, but because you love and care for them, protecting them in the case that something unexpected happens makes sense.

So a little… Maybe a more known fact than you realize, but in 2003, the HIPAA rule was instituted. That’s the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and if you have been to a doctor’s office since 2003, I’m almost sure that you have signed a HIPAA form. Basically what that says is it was medical records or information of an individual are prevented from anyone accessing them or abusing that individual’s medical information without their permission. That applies to all adults. That privacy law extends to your 18-year-old as well. Unless you have a health care directive or a HIPAA release in place, you may not be able to access their medical records and make decisions for them based on their wishes in the case that they’re in an emergency or a medical emergency. Those are two documents that you can easily get, that will protect your children in a medical emergency.

Now what about their finances? Another important legal safeguard for an adult or a newly-minted adult is a durable power of attorney for their property and personal accounts. This is especially helpful for those of you who have children living abroad or traveling abroad, and it will allow you to handle any unforeseen issues they may have here at home while they’re abroad, like dealing with their car, paying bills or securing housing for when they come back. Now for you 18-year-olds who are listening, you need to know that these documents don’t give your parents a free ticket to interfere with your life. Really these documents are only in place and simply allow action on your behalf by them or someone other, other adult you would choose, just in case you have an emergency. Getting these legal matters sorted out may be the most important birthday present for you 18-year-olds, you could give to your 18-year-old or give yourself.

Santa Rosa, CA