By: Mary Harris, CFP®

Once your child turns 18, you as a parent no longer have the authority to make health care decisions for her in most states.  Also, you no longer have the ability to act on her behalf in the management of her financial and contractual affairs.  This is true even if you claim your child as a dependent on your tax return and pay her health insurance and tuition.

What’s at issue?  If your child is in an accident or becomes disabled, even temporarily, a parent might have to seek court approval to act on her behalf.  This could cause unnecessary delays, require attorney’s fees, and come at a time of great stress.

What to do?  Every young person, before setting out for college should complete and sign four copies of the following documents:

  • Advance Health Care Directive
  • HIPAA Authorization
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Financial and Personal Affairs

These documents allow the child to make her wishes known and to appoint an agent to make healthcare and financial decisions in the event of a disabling event or accident.

The young person should keep the original and distribute copies to her chosen agent, doctor, and trusted advisor.

Have your estate planning attorney draft these documents for your college-bound child.  The health care forms can be downloaded for each state for free from