Important Estate Planning Documents for Parents as Children Turn 18

Estate Planning is not only something you need as a parent. It’s a wonderful event in a parent’s life when their children turn 18. At this stage in a child’s life, your child is graduating from high school, planning for college or their career, and sometimes going off to live on their own. 

As a parent of a child that recently turned 18, you’ll need to consider how to continue protecting your child from a legal aspect now that they are an adult. 

When I explain what documents parents need – especially when a child goes off to college – I often tell the story of my husband and his mother’s experience when my husband had emergency surgery while he was a student at UTD.

My husband moved to Richardson from Houston to attend UTD. Several years into college, he went to the emergency room in Plano for stomach pains which were diagnosed as appendicitis. Being a poor college student, his mother called the hospital to provide insurance and to cover the deductible. 

After arranging payment, his mother asked about how my husband was doing. To her shock – the hospital wouldn’t provide any details about my husband’s condition because of HIPPA laws. My mother-in-law was quite irked not knowing her son’s condition especially since she had just paid for his hospital bill and spoken to the same person!

What legal actions could my mother-in-law have taken to avoid this situation? Read on to learn more.     

What legal differences are there when a child turns 18?

  • Your child is considered a legal adult when they turn 18 which means you, as a parent, have a different legal role in your child’s life.
  • Because your child is now an adult, you aren’t privy to information or decision making about their education, medical records, or finances.
  • When your child turns 18, they must give you permission to access your child’s records – even if you are their parent.


What legal documents do I need for my child when they turn 18?

The most common legal documents are a HIPPA authorization, Durable Power of Attorney, and a Medical Power of Attorney. These documents allow you to make decisions for your child in case of an emergency. 

  • HIPAA Authorization: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) safeguards the release of medical information to unauthorized individuals.  If you need to access your child’s medical records after they turn 18, you will need to have your child sign a release.
  • Durable Power of Attorney: A durable power of attorney enables you to access important things your child needs when living on their own. With this in place, you are allowed to do things like sign tax returns, access school accounts (housing/tuition), access bank accounts, and more.
  • Medical Power of Attorney: A Medical Power of Attorney is legal document that gives you authority to make decisions about your child’s medical care if they become incapacitated in an accident.


What happens if I don’t have these important Estate Planning documents in place?

Without these documents in place when your child turns 18, you may not be able to assist them in making healthcare and financial-related decisions. What if your child gets in a sports accident or becomes terminally ill? 

Without a Medical Power of Attorney or HIPPA authorization, you usually won’t be provided with your child’s medical condition, or you won’t be given options for how they are cared for. If you don’t have a durable power of attorney in place, you may not be able to complete your child’s financial aid application, access your child’s grades at school, or access their bank account to pay bills.


When your child turns 18, it’s essential to be prepared by establishing the necessary legal documents to protect your child. My example earlier with my husband’s mother not being given information about his condition shows how being prepared can help prevent unneeded frustration and stress in a sensitive time.  

If you’d like to prepare for your child’s next stage in life, contact Ana to discuss which estate planning documents are needed to give you a piece of mind when your child turns 18.

Need help with protecting your children when they turn 18?

Contact Ana for a free consultation