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  • Writer's pictureMatt Devitt

Your Child is Turning 18 - Now What?

If your child is turning 18, you have probably just went through a pretty stressful few months. Not only were you dealing with your child's senioritis, but also supporting the college application process, SAT testing, extracurriculars and all the other things that parenting requires.

Now is a good time to take a deep breath, give yourself a bit of credit for the accomplishment of raising a good kid, and create an estate plan for your now adult child... Yes you read the last line correctly; your child, while hard to believe, is now an adult under the laws of the state of Michigan, and could benefit from some basic estate planning documents.

What are the Core Documents and why Does My Now Adult Child Need Them?

Many people only think of estate planning as something you complete when you have accumulated assets and or have children of your own. While these are both good reasons to create and maintain a comprehensive estate plan there are also several other factors that have very little to do with wealth.

Now that your child has turned 18, the state of Michigan grants them certain privacy rights and independence under the laws of the State. True, many 18 years old have very little wealth, however imagine a tough example where your child is away at school and has fallen ill. As a parent, our instinct is to swoop in, as we have for the past 18 years, and start directing the care. However, your child is now considered an adult, which allows HIPAA to come into play. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) directs health care professional to protect health care information and may disclose health care information only under specified circumstances or to certain persons.

Health Care Directive Documents:

  • Patient Advocate Designation (sometimes referred to as a health care power of attorney) - A patient advocate is an agent with authority to make health care decisions for the principal (or patient). The patient advocate is a substitute decision-maker. If the patient cannot make the decisions, the patient advocate makes the decision. The patient advocate designation, sometimes called the “health care power of attorney,” is the document that names the patient advocate. The patient may authorize the patient advocate to exercise any power concerning the patient’s care, custody, medical treatment, mental health treatment, or anatomical gifts that the patient could have exercised themselves.

  • Living Will - A living will is a written document, intended to be the clear and convincing expression of a patient’s wishes in connection with certain health situations.

  • HIPAA Authorization Form - The person named as the patient advocate should be given the authority under the HIPAA authorization. Consider also giving successor patient advocates a current right to access records without the consent of the others. This can make the process of obtaining medical records more efficient, avoiding the need for a successor patient advocate to prove the prior patient advocate cannot act.

Financial Documents:

  • General Durable Power of Attorney - With a valid power of attorney, you will be legally permitted to help your child take care of important matters -- for example, paying bills, rental agreements, scholarship funds or other similar accounts. See additional considerations below.

  1. Whether to make the power of attorney springing (only valid if child becomes incapacitated) or non springing (valid upon execution).

  2. Whether to limit the durable power of attorney to only certain financial matters. A common special durable power of attorney for children in school is a “Special Durable Power of Attorney for Educational Matters.” This allows you the parent to manage and represent your child's interest in all aspects, dealings, decisions involving your child’s education.

  3. Ensure that the Power of Attorney grants access to digital assets. Social media, photos, and other virtual parts of your child’s life is very import to young people and should be preserved. If your child is uncomfortable revealing digital password and security question answers to you, with the condition that it is only opened during periods of incapacity.

While having estate planning discussions with your child may seem strange at first, it is a good opportunity to prepare them for the next phase of their life, as well as, acknowledging their new found adulthood and independence.

** Disclaimer - The information you obtain from this blog post is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. ( or 734-335-0713)

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