Have a child heading to college in California? A few legal documents they need before they leave the house

Once your child graduates from high school, they generally head off to college.  If not, they’re probably out in the job market and likely moving out of the house.  Regardless of their plans, they are turning 18 or are 18 already, which means in the eyes of the law, they’re an adult.  What this means is that, even though you’re still their parent, and you may be their next of kin, you may have trouble accessing their medical records or making medical decisions on their behalf should there be an accident or other emergency.

Even if you still cover your child on your health insurance, if your child is 18, you do not automatically have access to your child’s health care records.  There is no special exemption for children until the age of 21.  Here are the simple documents you need to have your child sign before they leave the house, or ideally once they’re 18:

  1. Power of attorney for medical decisions and an advance directive.  In California, the power of attorney and advance directive (living will) is the same document.  Signing this simple document allows you to make decisions on your child’s behalf should this become necessary.
  2. HIPAA release.  A HIPAA release will give you access to your child’s medical records and to discuss your child’s medical situation with the doctors and other caregivers.  Without this, you could find yourself in court to get the needed access, which is the last thing you want to deal with if your child is injured.
  3. Power of attorney for finances.  In addition to the power of attorney for medical decisions, you will want to have a power of attorney for finances.  This document will allow you to access your child’s bank records and pay the necessary bills to, for example, keep the power on in your child’s apartment, or to pay the rent.  It can also become  important if you need to apply for social security on behalf of your child.

These are three simple documents that can help to protect you and your child once your child becomes a legal adult at 18.


One Response to “Have a child heading to college in California? A few legal documents they need before they leave the house”

  1. What is conservatorship in California? Part Two: The process « Christina McPherson, Attorney. Unlike any attorney you've ever met Says:

    […] So, you have a loved one who is no longer capable of taking care of themselves.  Last time, we talked about what a conservatorship is and why you may need one.  Now, we’ll look at the process. Unfortunately, the process is long and can be expensive.  Which is why it is so critical to get a power of attorney ahead of time for your loved ones.  Did you know that your children should have a power of attorney once they reach 18?  If your child is injured, you may not get automatic access to medical records and to make decisions on your adult teen’s behalf.  There’s more information in my article, Have a child heading to college? A few legal documents they need before they leave the house. […]

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