When Your Child Reaches the Age of 18


Many of us have children who are, or soon will be, adults. This is an important and exciting milestone, but it also changes the legal relationship between parent and child. When your child reaches the age of 18 years, you no longer have automatic legal authority to take care of your child’s needs, such as obtaining medical treatment, making health care decisions, and handling with money management. For this reason, we recommend that children who have reached the age of majority have the following documents in place:

  1. A financial durable power of attorney that will enable a named agent (usually a parent) to take care of things like writing checks for bill payment, depositing checks, and other financial matters that may need attention, particularly if the child is away at college, traveling, or doing a semester abroad. This is a document that can be used for convenience; it does not require any showing that the child is incapacitated.
  2. A durable power of attorney for health care naming a person who will have the legal right to make health care decisions for the child if the child becomes incapacitated. Although we never want to think of anything bad happening to our children, it is important to identify who will be the decisionmaker if something does. Otherwise, it will be necessary to have the probate court appoint a guardian to make care decisions. This can sometimes be a contentious process as family members battle over who should be appointed in this role. Virtually all the high profile legal battles involving care and end-of-life decisions are cases involving young people who are in the prime of life when incapacity strikes; there tends to be much less controversy about end-of-life decisions for older, chronically ill family members.

Now is a good time to get your child’s documents in place, before he or she heads off to college this fall. Give us a call if we can help.