Well, the day is finally approaching and who can believe it?  Your precious, darling BABY is off to college!  It’s hard to imagine, but you’ve prepared.  Those college tours, those SATs, those college applications and then the acceptance letters!  And now, as you gather all of those great dorm supplies (where was Super-Target when we were college-bound?), and you get ready for the big send-off, have you forgotten something?

For 18 years you’ve been the legal guardian of your child, and the voice for them in any legal, medical, financial or academic situation.   But the day they turn 18, they are legally an adult.  And weirdly enough, just like that, you are legally out of the picture (even if you are still footing their bills!)

And in most instances, this is okay!  This is the normal course of life.   They are growing up!   The problem, unfortunately, occurs when something unforeseen happens.  All of a sudden you are faced with a difficult situation involving your kiddo (because, let’s face it, at 18, we still think of them as kiddos) and because the law no longer recognizes you as your child’s authority, you are unable to help them out!

The examples are endless.  This could be something as simple as needing to sign a student loan form for your child while they are studying abroad, to as complicated as needing access to medical records and the attending physicians to help make medical decisions if they’ve been in an accident and are unable to make decisions for themselves.

I know, I know, I have to bring up terrible scenarios in my law practice, and I’m not trying to freak you out, but the fact is, I’m here to help you remember these things and to help you BE PREPARED!  And it is as simple as your child signing a few documents:

A power of attorney.  This document allows your designated agent to manage your personal affairs.

A medical power of attorney.  This document allows your designated agent to make decisions on your behalf regarding your health care in the event that you cannot make them yourself.

A directive to physicians.  This document tells physicians and hospitals what action to take if you are suffering from a “terminal” or “irreversible” condition and are unable to communicate or make your own decisions.

A HIPAA authorization.  This document allows the designated agent access to a patient’s medical information (private information that is strictly guarded otherwise by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996).

Please consider talking to your “babies” about why these documents are so important.  I’m writing this article for you, parents, but ultimately your children will be the ones who make the decisions about who to appoint as their fiduciaries and they will be signing the documents.   Helping them to get this done can really be as easy as making yet another Target run!

This is an article about reasons for needing certain legal documents when you are 18+ years old. Please note that the above article is not intended to be a replacement for specific legal advice. If you have a specific legal question, you should contact a real, live Texas-licensed attorney.  

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