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Must-have health care documents before your child turns 18

June 29, 2021
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Celebrating your child becoming an adult is an exciting time! Turning 18 brings with it a whole new reality of freedom and responsibilities, especially if your young adult is heading off to college. As a parent, you may be surprised to know that this milestone also brings with it an abrupt change to what you’re allowed to know about your kid and what decisions you’ll no longer have a right to make.

Many parents don’t realize that once your children become legal adults, your rights to their medical information and your ability to make any medical decisions on their behalf are instantly gone. And because many 18-year-olds no longer live at home, losing control over certain health care decisions can lead to unique challenges with unintended consequences for parents.

If your adult child is admitted to the hospital or is actively under a doctor’s care, your access to his or her medical status and your visitation rights will likely be suspended unless you have proper documentation in place. This lack of information can quickly add another layer of stress and panic on top of an already uneasy situation for you and your child. By getting the following two documents in place, you can avoid this difficulty and preserve your ability both to get information and to make decisions:

HIPAA Authorization Form The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a law that keeps medical information private by denying any third-party inquiries into one’s current medical conditions or medical records, including those made by you about your adult child. Having a HIPAA authorization form on file essentially cancels out this restriction and allows you to access your child’s healthcare information so you can to stay up-to-date on any procedures, conditions or issues.. and if your child doesn’t feel 100% comfortable giving you unrestricted access to their private health information, it can be limited to match his or her comfort level.

Health Care Power of Attorney A healthcare power of attorney allows you to make healthcare decisions on behalf of your adult child. It’s not absolute: a health care power of attorney typically doesn’t kick in unless an adult child becomes physically or mentally incapable of making decisions on his or her own, in which case you’ll absolutely want control. Thankfully, most parents will never need to utilize this document, but it’s one you’ll be grateful you have if you do.

Just because turning 18 designates your child as an official adult doesn’t mean you have to stop helping and protecting your child. These forms are just one element of a strong estate plan, so if you have any questions, let’s connect.