“What do you mean I can’t see her grades??? – I’m paying the tuition!!”
The memory, while a couple of decades in my past, is still clear. My father, in conversation with the Dean of Students at the end of my first semester in college, was astounded to hear that, because I was 18 years old (an adult in the eyes of the law), he had no access to my personal information … in this case, my grades.
I tell you this story to highlight an issue that many parents overlook. When your child turns 18, they become an adult … and everything that means from a legal perspective. They can be arrested without your knowledge, they can be treated medically without your knowledge, they can receive prescription drugs without your knowledge, they can sign contracts, lease apartments, get a credit card, buy a car, and on and on. Stop for a moment and imagine this scenario: Your 18 (or 19, or 20, or older) year old has an underlying medical condition that requires them to take prescription medication. You have managed this for their entire life. Then they leave for college and their new friends tell them that prescription drugs are bad and they should stop taking that “poison.” Your child stops taking their medication, and suffers a medical consequence from that decision. You discover all of this several weeks later when you receive a bill from the hospital for the emergency room visit. When you contact the hospital and/or doctor’s office, you learn that they cannot release any information to you without your child’s consent. You argue that this is your CHILD! To which they sympathize and again refuse to provide any information.
Infuriating, frustrating and unexpected – but true. When your child passes that magical line on their 18th birthday, it is time to get some legal documents in place. Especially if your child is going off to college. A simple Health Care Proxy and Power of Attorney will save you the frustration of discovering the hard way that you have no rights when it comes to your child.
Encourage your young adult (child) to put these documents in place – ideally when they turn 18, but definitely before they leave for college. These documents are relatively inexpensive and can save you the emotional cost of bumping into the unexpected.
Susan Hunter, Hunter Estate & Elder Law