Your graduating senior may always be your baby, but in the eyes of the law, he or she is now an adult.

It may come as a surprise to parents and children alike that a parent needs to have the legal authority to act for their 18-year-old legal adult.  If your 18-year-old is in a car wreck, contracts with an apartment complex, or goes to the infirmary with a high fever, what are your rights?

So before you send your child, (oops, I mean young adult!) off to college or off to their first job and apartment, you need to make sure they have the following legal documents:

  1. Medical Power of Attorney,
  2. HIPAA
  3. Financial Power of Attorney

Medical Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions

A Medical Power of Attorney authorizes a parent to make medical and health care decisions on behalf of their young adult and to get a medical diagnosis.   If a young adult is ill, in an accident or otherwise becomes incapacitated, even for a short time,  a medical power of attorney is imperative.  Without this written authority to act a parent will need to go to court to be named guardian to act on his or her child’s behalf.

There are many horror stories about friends and colleagues who find this out the hard way.

For example, one young woman in her first year in college went to the school clinic for an allergy checkup, and it was discovered that she had a certain type of cancer.  When the parents called to talk to the doctor, they were not allowed to receive information or discuss the diagnosis with the treating physician regarding their child’s condition because she was over 18 and they were not legally appointed her medical power of attorney.  A lot of anxiety could have been avoided if the young woman had signed the medical power of attorney before leaving home.


HIPAA allows the medical decision-makers to access protected health information (PHI) and goes hand in hand with the Medical Power of Attorney.

Financial Power of Attorney

A Financial Power of Attorney is effective when a person is incapacitated,  unavailable and/or unable to make their own financial decisions.   Not only can you as an agent under a financial power of attorney make financial decisions during incapacity of your child, but this document also allows access financial and credit card accounts.  I have also used this POA to negotiate contracts and apartment leases when my child was out of the country on a study abroad program.

Moral of the StoryGet your child to sign those documents so you don’t have to worry about it! Contact us to help. 


By: Erin Thrash