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  • Writer's pictureLeslie A. Farber

4 Legal Documents You Need When Your Child Turns 18

thoughtful young woman

Turning 18 is a milestone celebrated by children and their parents. In most states, including New Jersey and New York, 18-year-olds are considered adults. This means they can vote and marry. In the case of young men, they must register for the Selective Service. It also means that, under the law, they can enter into binding contracts, file lawsuits or be sued, and are liable for negligence and crimes they commit.

Although no longer legally obligated to provide support, many parents wish to continue to help their adult children make decisions about their education or finances, and assist in the event of a health-related or other emergency. But parents often fail to realize that they no longer have access to their adult child’s medical, financial, and educational records. This is true regardless of whether the child is still in high school or covered by the parent’s health insurance plan.

However, there are several ways your adult child can authorize you as a parent to access critical information, advocate with health care providers, and/or take an active role in decision-making if your child becomes incapacitated.

HIPAA Release Form or Waiver of Authorization

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prohibits health care professionals and facilities from releasing medical information without an individual’s authorization. After your child reaches the age of majority at 18, the privacy of their personal health information is protected under HIPPA. This means a doctor or other health care provider cannot disclose your child’s medical record or discuss their health status or treatment recommendations with anyone. However, your child can grant you access to their records and permission to speak with their doctors by completing a HIPAA medical information release form. The child can name the individuals to whom they grant access as well as stipulate specific details they may prefer to keep private. LINK:

FERPA Release or Waiver

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects the privacy of educational records, including report cards, disciplinary actions, and test results. When your child is a minor, you as parents have the right to access their academic records. On your child's 18th birthday, or if they attend a school after high school at any age, that right transfers to your child – regardless of who is paying for their education. Most colleges will not release education records to parents without the student’s written consent via a FERPA waiver. It is important to discuss the FERPA waiver with your child before they leave for college and determine if signing it is the right decision for your family. LINK:

Medical or Health Care Advanced Directive (aka Living Will) and Appointment of Health Care Representative (aka medical Power of Attorney)

A medical or health care advanced directive (aka a living will) and appointment of health care representative allows your adult child to designate you as their health care agent. This authorizes you to access to their medical records and make health care and treatment decisions on their behalf should they become incapacitated due to serious injury or illness. Each state has its own rules governing medical power of attorney documents. If your child is moving or attending college out of state, be sure to research the documents you need in both your home state and the state where your child will be living. Note that some health care power of attorney forms include an advance medical directive (living will), where your child can state their preferences for care if they have a terminal or end-stage condition.

Durable Power of Attorney for financial matters

Many young adults rely on their parents for financial advice or support. If this is the case, it may be wise to speak with your child about naming you as their durable or financial power of attorney. Doing so would allow you to handle their financial affairs, including accessing their bank accounts, signing tax returns, paying bills, and making financial decisions on their behalf. Your child can specify whether they want to grant you this authority immediately or only if they become incapacitated.

Obtaining these authorizations can be a relief for both you and your adult child, as well as offer a valuable opportunity for you to share expectations, concerns, and goals. If you have questions or need legal advice related to these documents or forms, please contact us at 973.707.3322 or

The contents of this writing are intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion in any specific facts or circumstances

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