Graduation season is an exciting time for families and students alike, filled with celebrations, adventures, and transitions. Whether your graduate is headed to higher education, vocational training, travels, or a new career, it is important for your child to know that this new season comes with new responsibilities, and your role has legally changed. Once your child reaches age 18, a parent or legal guardian no longer has authority to receive certain information, make financial or medical decisions, or access student college records, even in an emergency. It is critical to get legal documents in place before a crisis occurs.
First, a durable general power of attorney will allow you to have access to and handle your adult child’s financial affairs when s/he is unable to do so. For example, a power of attorney can allow you to communicate with financial institutions, deposit and withdraw money, and pay bills on his/her behalf.
Second, an advance directive for healthcare is crucial to receive medical information and make medical decisions for your adult child. When your child is a minor, you can legally obtain medical information, make appointments, and decide on treatments. But after age 18, you no longer have access or the authority to get medical information or make those decisions.
Third, if your student is headed to college, be aware that under FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act), you will not have access to their academic or financial transcripts. Your child can sign a FERPA waiver, which is a document that will grant you (or any other person listed) permission to view his/her academic and/or financial aid records. If your child is reluctant to “give up” their privacy rights, you can explain that the waiver can be used as a “safety net” to catch them if they start to fall academically, or check for institutional errors, and not to micromanage him/her.
Although the new-found freedoms of being a young adult are likely ones your child has looked forward to for years, young adults still do rely heavily on their parents, guardians, and loved ones for guidance and support. Having the proper legal documents in place will allow you to fully support your child as well as provide him/her with essential legal protections in an emergency.