When your child turns 18, the law sees them as a legal adult. While acting like an adult may still be in the future, legal adulthood has commenced.
When a child turns 18, parents lose a lot of rights. Rights that include being able to access education records and medical information on your child.
Also when a child turns 18, the child gains many rights. Rights that include being able to access financial accounts in their name that they may not have had access to before.
Because of all the legal changes that occur when a child becomes an adult, there are some steps families may want to take. Let’s discuss seven important things to do when your child turns 18.
1. Sign a FERPA Release
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that affords parents the right to have access to their children’s education records, the right to seek to have the records amended, and the right to have some control over the disclosure of personally identifiable information from the education records.
When a student turns 18 years old, or enters a postsecondary institution at any age, the rights under FERPA transfer from the parents to the student.
If you and your child agree that you should still have access to their education records, complete a FERPA release form and return it to your child’s school. This form is available through your child’s school or online.
2. Sign a HIPAA Waiver
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prevents anyone not named in a signed release from receiving medical information about another adult. Once your child turns 18, you won’t be able to gain access to their medical status.
Signing a HIPAA release form gives you the right to your child’s medical information. If your 18-year-old child is hesitant to give you rights to all their medical information, he or she can limit what you’re allowed to access.
A HIPAA waiver only gives you the rights to your child’s medical information, but does not allow you to make any medical decisions. This is when a medical power of attorney is necessary.
3. Create a Medical Power of Attorney
Once your child turns 18, you no longer have a say in their medical treatment. Even if your child gets into a car accident and someone needs to make important medical decisions, you can’t do so. Your child may still be on your health insurance plan, but unless you have a medical power of attorney in place, a judge makes decisions about your child’s care.
Your child can name you as their health care agent/proxy via a medical power of attorney. This power only kicks in if your child is unable to make their own medical decisions.
4. Create a Living Will
A living will states your wishes on how you want to be treated if you’re terminally ill, seriously injured, in a coma, or mentally incapacitated. It also includes your end-of-life decisions, such as life support treatments and organ donation. Your 18-year-old may want to create one if they have strong convictions about what they want.
Without a living will, the medical power of attorney will give you, the parent, the right to make health-care decisions, but these decisions may not be what your child wants if they never made it known.
It makes the most sense for your adult child to create the living will and medical power of attorney at the same time.
See what you’d pay for life insurance
Comparison shop prices on custom coverage amounts from the nation’s top carriers with Quotacy.
5. Create a Durable Power of Attorney
Although your 18-year-old child is now a legal adult, chances are you’re still assisting them financially. A durable power of attorney allows you to handle your adult child’s financial affairs if they are unable. Example situations include being abroad or incapacitated.
By naming you their power of attorney agent, you’re allowed to access bank accounts, sign tax returns, renew car registration, and perform other transactions. If your child is not comfortable giving you full access, they can limit what you have access to.
6. Check on Financial Accounts
If you or other family members opened financial accounts for your child when they were young, they may now have unrestricted access to these accounts.
Most states follow the Uniform Transfer to Minors Act. This Act essentially allows parents and grandparents to open custodial accounts in the name of a minor child. The property in these accounts—whether it’s cash, real estate, works of art, stocks, bonds, life insurance policies—are managed by a custodian until the child becomes a legal adult. Once this child is officially an adult in the eyes of the law, the account terminates and the child receives the property.
If your child is approaching 18, but not quite there yet, you may be able to make account adjustments if necessary. Not all 18-year-olds are mature enough to handle a windfall of money.
If you don’t believe your minor child is mature enough to use the account wisely, consult with a financial professional. You may be able to transfer UTMA accounts into another more restrictive account, as long as it still benefits your child.
7. Update Your Life Insurance Policy
Life insurance is bought to financially protect your family. You were likely told by your agent that minor children cannot be named as beneficiaries. Now that your child is a legal adult, if you wish to update your policy and name your child as a beneficiary, it’s valid to do so.
However, keep in mind the maturity level of an 18-year-old should you die sooner rather than later. You may not want to update your beneficiaries quite yet.
How long ago did you purchase your life insurance policy? Is it set to terminate any time soon?
Now that your child is a legal adult, are they on track to becoming financially independent in the near future? Or will you be financially responsible for them for quite some time yet?
If the latter, you may want to consider purchasing additional life insurance. It costs nothing to get new term life insurance quotes. You don’t even need to pay with contact information.
Here at Quotacy, you can see real-time term life insurance quotes instantly. When you’re ready to apply, your Quotacy agent will keep you updated every step of the way. You’re not obligated to purchase if you change your mind.
When your child turns 18, it’s a great time to review your life insurance policy. If you’re unsure if you need more coverage, contact us and an advisor would be happy to go over your situation with you and provide customized options.
About the writer
Natasha Cornelius, CLU
Senior Editor and Life Insurance Expert
Natasha Cornelius, CLU, is a writer, editor, and life insurance researcher for Quotacy.com where her goal is to make life insurance more transparent and easier to understand. She has been in the life insurance industry since 2010 and has been writing about life insurance since 2014. Natasha earned her Chartered Life Underwriter designation in 2022. She is also co-host of Quotacy’s YouTube series. Connect with her on LinkedIn.