The following is a guest post by our friend and criminal & juvenile defense lawyer Kevin Snyder. Although the topic of this post isn't one we would normally feature on our blog, we do publish whatever we can to help families prepare young adults for the next step in life. Some of the legal points explored here are a great starting point.
If you’re the parent of a high school graduate this year (cue Pomp and Circumstance music), then congratulations! You’ve put in a lot of time, effort, and love toward their earning that diploma, and whatever their next step in life will be, you likely want to protect them just as much as you did while they were still in high school.
But before you pack that kid off to college, the workforce, or send them off to whatever new adventure they will be going on, you need to know that when they leave, they will be taking some of the legal rights you had before they turned 18 with them.
Once a child turns 18, they are no longer considered a child in the eyes of the law. And you no longer have the legal right to access their health care, school or banking records without their permission. Here are some steps you should take before your child leaves the nest that will help ensure their safety and your peace of mind:
Create an advance healthcare directive. Once your child is officially an adult, they need to have an advance healthcare directive that will allow you to access their medical records and make medical decisions for them in case they become incapacitated. This is essential in case of an emergency. They will also need to sign a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) form that allows medical professionals to share information with you.
Use technology. The American Bar Association has a free app for iPhone and Android that allows you to store an advance directive and other important documents on a smartphone. The app comes in two versions: the Lite version stores a PDF version of an advance healthcare directive and HIPAA form; the Pro version ($3.99) provides more functionality, including the ability to email documents. The app is called “My Health Care Wishes” and is available from the iPhone App Store or on Google Play for Android devices. There are also online solutions like www.DocuBank.com that stores medical records and allows those to be accessed by medical professionals anywhere in the world.
Add an ICE app to your child’s phone. Add an ICE (In Case of Emergency) app to the home page of your child’s phone that lists your contact information and also create an ICE listing in his or her phone contacts with this information. Your child is much more likely to always have their phone with them than to carry a printed card or document.
Review the legal responsibilities of adulthood: Becoming and adult brings new responsibilities and consequences. Make sure your child as the foundation they will need to understand and fully appreciate their legal responsibilities as an adult. Whether going to college or entering the workforce, your child is going to be presented with new situations and opportunities that high school classes simply did not cover. They will also have more legal power and authority to do things they were prevented from doing before such as voting, joining the military, entering into contracts, and opening up credit cards to name a few. The last thing you want for your child is to find themselves in physical or financial danger, in a legal bind, or in trouble with the law simply because they just did not know what to expect. The California State Bar provides a survival guide for teenagers turning eighteen that explains some the laws, responsibilities, and consequences that apply to your child at this turning point into legal adulthood. Click here and we will be happy to send you a digital copy.
Kevin Snyder is an estate planning & criminal / juvenile defense lawyer. For more information on protecting your new high school graduate and the rest of your family, feel free to reach out to Kevin at Snyder Law.