Estate Planning

Turning 18 brings big changes for young adults and their parents

How to be legally prepared for the new laws that affect you

An 18th birthday opens new doors for minors and presents the independence of a fresh adulthood for children. Recognized as a young adult by almost every state in the union, these minors are finally legally able to vote, enter into contracts and make financial decisions for themselves. Most parents and guardians see this day with a bitter sweetness – their baby is grown up and moving on, yet they can also realize some new freedoms for themselves. Many parents get caught up in the emotion of this milestone and do not realize they now need legal consent to access their children’s medical, financial and educational records, as well as to make important decisions on their behalf.

For many families these new adults are still not self-sufficient and will continue to rely on their parents for money and housing, as well as for guidance on structuring their new-found freedoms and responsibilities. There is rarely a perceptible change in how these things are handled by the parent. The exception shows up when a parent tries to get medical information and is told that the doctor cannot relay any information to them or when the parent wants to check on their child’s grades at college and is told that the college cannot provide any information.


No parent wants to feel helpless with regard to their children.

And, yes, this issue can even present itself while the 18-year-old is still in high school. A few years ago, I received a call from a friend on behalf of her neighbor. The neighbor’s daughter was being held on a 5150 hold – an involuntary hold of up to 72 hours for psychiatric evaluation –  because she had attempted suicide. Amidst this devastation her parents were told that after the required 72 hours, the hospital was obligated to release her even if she was still a danger to herself. Her parents could not get her committed to a mental health program without her consent because she was 18 and was not legally under her parents’ care. She had to voluntarily submit herself to stay for further psychiatric care. Needless to say, her parents were left feeling frantic and scared for her well-being.

No parent wants to feel helpless with regard to their children. With the implementation of some basic legal documents, situations like this can be avoided. Every new adult should have the following:

1. Basic last will and testament

2. Advance health care directive

3. Durable financial power of attorney

These important papers allow new adults to pick agents to make medical and financial decisions on their behalf if they are unable to. They also allow parents, if designated as the agent, to have access to critical medical, financial and educational information that would otherwise be inaccessible.

Parents are able to effectively balance continuing to care for their child while preserving their newly found freedom. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of starting this conversation early to discuss available options and creating these documents before children turn 18 to mitigate any type of gap in care. It is essential for the preservation of these new freedoms and the care of young adults to put the proper plans in place. Education on the legal process, as well as insight into a successful outcome, is key to setting up sound legal documents that create a safety net for parents and children.

About The Office of Jan A. Meyer

The Law Office of Jan A. Meyer was founded in 2011 in Dana Point, Calif. A boutique law firm focused on estate planning, it was established to provide a more personal and compassionate experience for clients in setting up legal strategies to protect their financial assets and care for their families. The Office of Jan A. Meyer is committed to the success of its clients and strategically guides families and individuals through a series of decisions to create a strategic estate plan that will provide legal protection. To learn more or set up a consultation, please visit www.danapointwills.com or call (949) 607-9412.

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