Happy 18th Birthday! Please Sign the Following Forms

Turning 18 is a momentous birthday. For parents, they are often patting themselves on the back for raising an adult. For kids, it’s a coming-of-age milestone that allows for greater independence and personal freedoms to do things like buy fireworks or finally get that tattoo that they will absolutely never regret.

While it’s an exciting time in life, turning 18 also brings with it a whole host of responsibilities and tasks that should be prioritized, many before your child heads off to college if that is on the horizon. Below is a list of key items to work on.

Sign a HIPAA release form – If your family addresses only one thing on this list, have it be this. HIPAA authorization allows doctors and medical facilities to share updates and information with you (or whomever is named on the form) should your child have a medical emergency. Without this form, parents or guardians do not have access to their 18+ year old’s medical records or an ability to speak with their medical provider.  While there are standardized versions of a HIPAA release form, it’s worth checking with your attorney about any state specific needs. Many hospitals and doctors have their own forms so be sure to sign forms for your child’s medical providers and the closest hospital at home as well as for their college health center and the closest hospital to your child’s school if applicable. HIPAA forms do not need to be notarized.

Assign power of attorney for health – Along with completing a HIPAA release form, your new adult should also designate someone to make medical decisions on their behalf should they become incapacitated. Also known as a healthcare proxy, it is recommended they assign both a primary and secondary agent. You can find forms for this by state here. Again, if your child is out of state for school, sign forms for both their home and school states. We also advise checking this with your attorney to make sure no required steps are missed.

Assign power of attorney for finance – You child should also assign someone to make financial decisions on their behalf should they become incapacitated. This designation also allows college students to assign someone the ability to manage their tax returns and other financial matters while they are away at school. Once again, you can find forms by state here but confirm with your attorney that there are no additional requirements.

Sign a FERPA release form (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act) – While colleges are happy to send parents tuition bills, they will not share any information on a student’s grades, any disciplinary situations or any other related school records without having this signed form on file. Depending on family relations (many kids will naturally share information on grades and other school issues with their parents) this may be unnecessary. You can find a standard form on the U.S. Department of Education’s website here. Schools may also have their own version so check on that.

Create a will – Nothing says “welcome to adulthood” more than creating a will. However, if your child owns any assets individually, without a will, the distribution of those would be subject to the decisions of the probate courts in your state. Your estate attorney can help with this. For family situations where a child owns assets in trust, this may already be taken care of but better to ask than assume.

Create a living will – Along the same depressing lines as creating a will, this is a step that while hard to think about should be done. Also known as an advanced directive, a living will provides your now-adult child with the ability to say what they would want in a situation where they would require life-extending medical services as well as their wishes for end-of-life decisions. In some cases, this information is included in the documents for healthcare proxy but that can vary so once again, check with your attorney.

Register for military selective service – All those assigned as male at birth are required to register with the selective services within 30 days of their 18th birthday. This can be done online through their website or you can print and mail in a form.

Register to vote – The rules and process for this can vary by state but rather than waiting until immediately before an important election, go to usa.gov’s registration page where you can start the process and learn more about the requirements of your home state as well as what might be needed if you will be out of state during an election.

Check on health insurance – Children can be covered under their parent’s health insurance up to age 26. That said, if your child will be going to school out of state, contact your insurance provider to find out if their location affects coverage in any way or if you need to submit documentation in advance on their out-of-state status.

Set up medical and dental appointments before they head to school – If they take any medications, be sure they have updated prescriptions that they can either get filled at a pharmacy near their school or have an ample supply to get them to the next break when they come home.

Get or update a Passport – After age 18, your passport is good for ten years instead of five years for minors. It’s also useful as a secondary identification to a driver’s license or other state issued ID. The renewal or issuing process can take a little time (4-8 weeks is not uncommon) so if your child wants to travel at any point in college, you will have this task done. Keep in mind that some countries will not accept a passport that is within six months of expiring so stay ahead of that timeline. You can complete an application and find more information on the U.S. State Department’s website here.

If possible, give your family some time to work through these responsibilities and don’t panic if they are not all done immediately. Prioritize things like the HIPAA form, designating a power of attorney for health and registering with the Selective Service System (as missing that deadline can have legal repercussions). Unfortunately, none of these tasks protect you from the “but I’m an adult now” argument with your 18+ year-old around household rules but at least you will have the peace of mind that comes with taking care of legal and financial responsibilities.

The material shown is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as accounting, legal, or tax advice. Although we made efforts to verify the accuracy of the information, Altair Advisers cannot guarantee its accuracy. Please see Altair Advisers’ Form ADV Part 2A and Form CRS at https://altairadvisers.com/disclosures/ for additional information about Altair Advisers’ business practices and conflicts identified.