For many children who graduate from high school, the next step in their journey to adulthood is college. For many children, this is the first time they will be living away from home and/or making significant life decisions on their own, without their parents’ assistance or supervision. This can be a difficult transition for a child, but even more so for a parent who, for the last 17 years, has been making all of his/her child’s major decisions.
In New York, when a child turns 18, the rights of a parent to make decisions for him/her changes dramatically. A parent no longer has complete access to a child’s financial records, health records or education records, regardless if the parent is paying all of the child’s bills! Since it may still be important for a parent to be able to continue making such decisions for a child, it is imperative that a parent establishes a legal right to do so.
Before a child heads off to college, a parent should ensure that, at the very least, a child has a valid financial power of attorney and health care proxy in place once the child turns 18. These documents will appoint the parent, or perhaps another trusted adult, as the child’s agent to allow that agent to, for example, have access to a child’s medical records and make important financial decisions for the child.
Further, depending on the assets a child may have accumulated by age 18, it may be prudent to also consider having the child prepare a Last Will and Testament, to ensure that his/her assets pass to the intended beneficiaries (which may possibly include individuals other than the child’s parents).
It is never easy when a child leaves home for the first time, but by making sure the child has mechanisms in place to allow parents to participate in their health and financial decisions, both parents and the child can rest a bit easier.