Lately I’ve seen quite a few social media posts from proud parents with their high school seniors, college decision days, etc. It is a big moment…your child is done with high school and next step is – gulp – college! Graduating from high school is a significant milestone for both parents and the graduate. There is actually another really important milestone that happens either just before, close in time with or right after this rite of passage – reaching age 18!
This graduated senior may or may not already be 18 years old. We tend to overlook this age because you get your license at 16 and can legally have a cocktail at 21.
Age 18 is even more important because the law now considers you an adult (albeit a teetotalling one). Once we reach age 18, a parent may no longer be able to make health care decisions for us, nor can they access our financial accounts and records just by saying “I’m Mom,” or “I’m Dad.”
Let’s say your 18 year-old child heads off this summer to be a camp counselor in NH or ME. If they need medical attention and are not able to communicate for themselves, the doctor may ask, “Who is their Health Care Agent?” Not having one could cause a delay in the receipt of necessary medical care.
Let’s say this same young adult in ME or NH needs someone to access a bank account or financial record in MA. If they have an account in their name only, Mom and/or Dad will not be able to access that account in that emergency.
This young adult should minimally have a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) and Health Care Proxy (HCP) in place to name someone as their “in case of emergency” designee(s) for financial/legal matters (DPOA) and health care matters (HCP). Best-case scenario is having a Will also.
These documents are also critically important as this newly minted adult heads off to college, or wherever this next phase in their lives takes them.