- Once a teenager turns 18, their parents no longer have automatic access to their medical information, the ability to sign documents on their behalf or guarantee ownership of any assets. if they die.
- Setting up basic legal proxies when you turn 18 can keep you covered in case of emergencies and ensure that people you trust can help you if something happens.
- Consider setting up a health care proxy, power of attorney, living will, and basic will and testament when you turn 18.
Turning 18 is an exciting time in any teenager’s life. It has a newfound freedom in the eyes of the law, and marks the transition to adulthood.
But with some of the freedoms that come with adulthood, there are significant responsibilities that come with it. For one, it’s no longer up to the parents to decide what happens to the new adult’s money, health care or assets.
With this in mind, there are some legal documents that an 18-year-old can benefit from signing, including a power of attorney, health care proxy and others.
If you are the parent of a teenager approaching adulthood, encouraging them to create these emergency safety nets can put them on the path to success.
Legal Documents Signed At 18
“Turning 18 brings with it newfound freedom and responsibilities. While many legal preparations accompany later stages of life, there are important documents that young adults should consider. sign at this age,” Justin Stivers, owner and managing attorney at Stivers Law in Coral Gables, Florida, said in an email.
The surprising thing is, most teenagers don’t think about what will happen if they get into an accident or worse. However, when you move into adulthood, these types of emergencies are important to address.
If children are under 18, parents or legal guardians have legal rights to make important decisions about their medical care or finances. After you reach that threshold, however, parents don’t have those capabilities by default. If there is someone in your life that you want to be in charge of your legal decisions, you should write that down.
“Failure to have these documents may result in your family having a court-appointed guardian on your behalf to make these decisions for you. This court-appointed person may be a family member, but it’s going to be a random guardian. Everyone wants to avoid being a guardian and having their rights taken away from them. Making sure you have these documents is a good step to avoid that,” Stivers said.
Consider setting up these four documents when you turn 18:
Health Care Proxy
No one wants to imagine being in an accident that leaves you unable to make your own medical decisions, but it can happen to anyone.
According to David Handler, a partner in the trusts and estates practice group at Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago, a health care proxy is the minimum legal insurance you should set up when you turn 18.
“Otherwise, if the teen has a medical issue, doctors will not share information without verbal consent,” Handler said in an email.
This document instructs another person to make medical decisions if you are incapacitated and unable to express their wishes.
Power of Attorney
Another legal document to consider signing is the power of attorney, or POA. This is especially useful for financial decisions, especially when teenagers are still learning how to manage money.
“The teen should also consider executing a power of attorney on the estate to allow parents or others to handle financial matters and sign tax returns if the teen is unable to do so. This can be especially beneficial if the teen is not in college,” Handler said.
While a power of attorney is generally associated with making financial decisions for an elderly person who is incapacitated by illness or other situations, it can be used in many situations.
“A power of attorney can be used not only in a terrible situation such as an accident but it can also be necessary if the young adult is studying abroad or traveling and needs something legal to do at home, ” said Stivers.
In some cases, a teenager may not want to hand over a health care power of attorney to their parents, but still want to make wishes in the event of health-related emergencies. That’s where a living will can come in handy.
A living will, different from the last will most people think of, is a document that informs doctors that you do not want to remain on life support if at least two doctors have decided that you do not have a meaningful life and remain in a vegetative state, Stivers says.
“Some people prefer to make this decision themselves rather than have someone named in their health care power of attorney make that decision for them,” he added.
Although it’s unlikely that a new 18-year-old teenager will have significant assets to distribute in the event of an accident, setting up a basic will can be a good idea.
“Otherwise, state law dictates, likely leaving the assets to the parents, if not to the siblings,” Handler said.
A legal representative can help you determine what you should include in your will, and having it from a young age means you can change it as you grow your assets or experience make major life changes, instead of spending time building them in the future.
How Parents Can Support Their Adult Children
Legal documents are undoubtedly the last thing on a teenager’s mind. But having these insurance policies in place in case of an emergency can help make their adult life much smoother if something does happen.
If you are a parent of a young child, it is important to show them why these documents are worth their time and help guide them through the process.
“Explain that they are now adults in the eyes of the law,” Handler said.
“Their actions have consequences and they cannot get a ‘break’ because they are 18. to put the powers of attorney,” he added.
Stivers says it’s not meant to scare your kids, but to show that these things actually work for them.
“While the parent doesn’t want the child to be afraid, if there are real-life examples they can use that can help young adults see that it can happen to anyone,” he said.