It Happened: Your Kid is now a Legal Adult!

The_new_20_somethings_why_wont_they_grow_up-460x307Parents of college-bound students may be so distracted by tuition payments and dorm-room shopping that they forget one important fact: your 18-year-old “child” is a legal adult. While you may still be supporting them financially, certain aspects of their lives will no longer fall under your control. Here are a few back-to-school preparations to consider that will aid your college freshman far more than XL twin sheets and a mini-fridge.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently published an article “How to prepare for kid going off to college.” The article gave some good advice on getting you and your child ready for their freshman year in the areas of healthcare and credit cards.

Health care: When a child turns 18, you are able to continue to keep him/her on your insurance plan, but they’re considered a legal adult under HIPAA as far as disclosing health information. As a parent, you’re no longer legally permitted to access their health information when they go off to college and get sick or if they’re in a car accident and in the hospital. Because of the HIPAA restrictions, you should have an estate-planning attorney draw up a health-care power of attorney which names a parent or parents as their health-care agent. That way you can speak to healthcare professionals on their behalf if they are incapacitated, and you can obtain their medical information. Have a conversation with your child about the changes that happen when they become an adult, and how a health-care power of attorney will protect them. Keep a copy of the document at home and have your son or daughter keep a copy at school. Scan it as well so you have it in electronic format to email to a physician or to an ER if needed.

Credit cards: Anyone under 21 applying for a credit card must have an independent source of funds to pay the bills, so that’s good news for parents. Many college freshmen use credit cards cosigned by parents. Parents should sign up for mobile alerts to monitor their student’s expenses, and talk to them about budgeting.

If your child goes on a shopping spree and there are payment issues, your credit is going to take a hit. You can avoid this by paying the bills yourself and having your kid reimburse you for his or her expenses each month. You can also go with a debit card instead of a credit card. When the money is gone, it’s gone. Another option is to add your child as an authorized user on your account so that he will have his own card and start to build a credit history. However, you’re the one managing the account.

While you’re thinking about all of these important issues, you also should take the time to review your estate planning now that your son or daughter is an adult and possibly is no longer living at home. Talk to your estate planning attorney about some of the common changes people consider at this point in the life of a family.

For more information about estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (August 8, 2015) “How to prepare for kid going off to college”

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