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Harry Bernstein Jan. 17, 2018

It may not feel right to you, but your child becomes an adult in the eyes of the state once they turn 18. One moment they’re a 17-year-old doing their high school homework, and the next they can vote, join the military, and they have legally-protected rights and autonomy in regards to matters such as their healthcare and finances. When your child comes of age, you no longer have the right to discuss their medical conditions with their healthcare providers or help make decisions for them if they become incapacitated. Considering accidents happen every day, this is a parent’s worst nightmare! To avoid that nightmare (and others like it), it’s important that you and your child prepare the following 5 documents as soon as they turn 18 in Ohio.


Did you know that, if your adult child (18+) falls into a coma and cannot make decisions about their medical treatment, you do not have any rights to make those decisions for them? Many parents in Ohio don’t realize this, especially when their 18-year-old is still in high school for part of the year and nothing seems to have changed. Happily, you can prepare for this type of crisis by executing a valid Ohio Health Care Power of Attorney.

This specialized power of attorney document allows a person to name an agent that can both obtain their health information and make healthcare decisions for them when they are incapable of making these decisions on their own. Once they turn 18, you should go over this document with your child and have them appoint you as their agent.


You’ve probably wondered what HIPAA stands for and what a HIPAA authorization does exactly. HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and it’s a federal law that sets certain national standards to protect the privacy of every patient’s healthcare information. So HIPAA limits how much information your healthcare providers and insurance company can provide to a third party - including, say, to you as the parent of a child who is 18 or older. HIPAA authorization allows a patient to designate certain parties who are permitted access to their information.

It’s important to understand that a standard Ohio healthcare power of attorney does not include HIPAA authorization, so you and your child should ensure that you have HIPAA authorization in addition to the healthcare POA. That way, you’ll be able to deal with providers and your child’s insurance directly if they’re hospitalized and just need help dealing with these tasks - and not have to wait until your child is declared incapacitated as would be necessary if you only had the healthcare POA.


No one likes to think about making a living will, especially not someone who’s just turned 18! However, you should discuss with your child that it’s important for their wishes to be known if the worst happens. A living will provides the legal framework for a person to make their wishes known regarding the withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining procedures under specific circumstances in Ohio. These circumstances include when they’re suffering from an irreversible, incurable, and untreatable condition from which death is likely to occur soon or when they’re in a permanently vegetative state.

Talking this through among family members can also help you as a parent understand and accept your child’s perspective and decisions in regards to resuscitation and life support. This should also prevent any complications with your child’s treatment should you be unreachable or if other family members disagree on how treatment should proceed.


Children who are newly official adults and going off to college are ready to exercise their newfound freedom, but they should still be encouraged to make a power of attorney and assign either one parent or both as their agents. While a power of attorney allows the appointed agent extensive rights to act on behalf of a person, make sure you don’t abuse your child’s trust by invading their privacy unnecessarily.

Why might an 18-year-old need this kind of power of attorney? One popular example covers young adults who go abroad to study during college. If something happens to your while overseas, you need the legal right to contact embassies and inquire after them or to send money from their account if they can’t access their domestic bank accounts on their own. Furthermore, if they need to file tax returns while they’re out of the country, you can do that for them with a POA.


This is another document that newly-minted adults don’t believe they need to worry about, and yet another one you should discuss with them and encourage them to make once they’re 18. Making a will is important in deciding to whom and how your possessions and funds are given upon your death. If your young adult has received an inheritance from another family member - such as a trust fund - or if they own a pet, they can and should provide for the disposition of both in a last will and testament.

Additionally, what about their social media accounts? What if they already have children? Encourage them to think about the future, and not to leave their estates (even if modest) up to the state. Dying intestate (without a will) means more hassle and stress for your loved ones that a simple document can help everyone avoid.

Now that you know what documents your child should have when they turn 18 in Ohio, why not help your child make them right away? Call my office to discover how easy it is to make these documents today!