We have a client whose child was in his first year of college. One day, the client received a call from the residence hall supervisor that their child was transported to the emergency room after a night of heavy drinking. Our client immediately called the hospital for an update. Unfortunately, the hospital legally could not provide any information about the child’s condition because the child was over the age of majority (18 years of age in Florida). Of course, this was frustrating for the client as they pay the child’s tuition, claimed the child as a dependent for tax purposes, and included the child on their medical plan. Our client quickly learned that as the natural parent, once the child turns 18 years old, the parent can’t make healthcare decisions or get personal information without certain legal documents in place.
Legal planning documents are not the first thing most people think about after high school graduation. As your child is getting ready to leave for college, he or she is probably looking for roommates, researching which dormitory is the best, and picking out bedding and room decorations. Or, perhaps he or she is pursuing a career right away or taking a gap year. Regardless of the path your child chooses, as demonstrated by the above situation, once children are 18 years old, parents generally no longer have the authority to make health care or financial decisions.
This doesn’t have to happen. If the child executes appropriate Health Care Surrogate documents, their parents (or designated Surrogate) are able to talk to medical professionals and participate in medical decisions if the child is ill or injured. Additionally, the child should consider executing a Durable Power of Attorney, which will allow their parents (or designated Agent) to manage financial or legal situations for their child such as paying bills, managing bank accounts, initiating/defending lawsuits, etc.
If you have adult children that do not have these basic legal documents in place, Sawyer & Sawyer, P.A. can help them be prepared. Please call (407) 909-1900 to make an appointment.