Losing the legal right to be involved in a child’s affairs, overnight, is one of the most difficult things for parents to accept when kids reach the age of majority. In most states that age is 18.
Growing up is a gradual process, there is no one-size-fits-all age when a child is truly ready for independence, and many parents feel that they should have a say in when this happens. The law disagrees. When your child turns 18 they have the same legal right to privacy that you do, and that includes privacy from you.
While most kids are chomping at the bit for their freedom and their privacy, the reality of how it works can come as a shock to parents and newly adult children alike. Here are three common problems and what you can do to prevent them.
The Hospital Won’t Tell You About Your Child’s Condition
This is one of the most shocking and disturbing situations that can come up for parents. Last week you had full access to your child’s medical records and health information. Two days after their 18th birthday, you get a call from a friend saying they have been in a car wreck. When you call the hospital, they won’t even tell you if your child is a patient.
As a legal adult, your child is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers are not allowed to disclose their information to you. While some may give you limited information, any can refuse.
There is a simple way to avoid this problem before it happens. A HIPAA release is a document in which your child authorizes medical personnel to release information to specific people. They choose who. It can be parents, friends, significant others, or anyone that they want to be able to find out where they are if in the hospital and what their medical condition is.
You Cannot Make Healthcare Decisions for Your Child
A HIPAA Release is the most basic document, at least you can find out what’s going on, but it does not give you any decision-making rights. For that you’ll need a health care power of attorney. It only takes effect if your child becomes incapacitated and cannot express their own wishes.
The Rent, Utilities, and Other Bills Aren’t Getting Paid and You’re Not Allowed to Help
If your child is unable to contact their landlord, utility companies, credit card companies, bank and others, you need to be able to step in on their behalf. It probably comes as no surprise that the bank will not talk to you about their account, but it may shock you that the power company and creditors won’t even take your money. That may seem like the least of your worries if your child is in the hospital, but even if they make a speedy recovery from their injuries or illness, the damage to their credit can haunt them for years.
A springing power of attorney lets you make business and financial decisions without compromising your child’s independence because, like the healthcare power of attorney, it only takes effect if your child becomes incapacitated.
To learn more about how you can prepare to help your adult child, please, contact an experienced estate planning attorney right away.