5 Legal Documents You Need When Your Child Turns 18

Signing off on these documents will give you the peace of mind you need...

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: 5 Legal Documents You Need When Your Child Turns 18 

Written by: Marybeth Bock

When it comes to parenting, they say the days are long, but the years are short, and boy is that true when you have a 13-year-old one minute and then, in a blink of an eye, your child is about to turn 18!

It’s a big deal when your child turns 18 and crosses the threshold of adulthood. Not only because your teen is now considered “a legal adult,” but also because, as parents, we lose so much legal control over our kids. And, it goes without saying that our strong instincts to protect them certainly don’t stop just because they’re now 18.

It’s important to know that the legal implications of your teenager turning 18 are significant. For instance, your teen can now vote, and potentially be sued or serve jail time in the event they cause harm or break the law. They’re also responsible for any loans or lines of credit they take out, and in the case of young men, they have to register for the Selective Service. (See below for more details.)

In addition, your legal rights as a parent to obtain their records (including medical, financial, and academic), cease once they turn 18, even if they’re still in high school and covered by your insurance.

Therefore, it’s important to take necessary action so that in the event of an emergency, you can continue to protect your child’s well-being. Here are the legal documents you need when your child turns 18. 

5 Legal Documents You Need When Your Child Turns 18


1. HIPPA Waiver

Once your child turns 18, their personal health information becomes private and protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA.

This means that healthcare providers aren’t legally permitted to release a patient’s medical records or even discuss their treatment recommendations or any current health status with parents or other relatives, even if the young adult is still covered by their parent’s health insurance. 

If the child is still covered by the parent’s insurance, they can generally get limited information about their child’s treatment and tests, but only after the fact and not before, when discussions about their treatment options might be most appropriate.

For parents or guardians to be able to discuss medical issues with health care providers and have access to medical records, your 18-year-old must sign a HIPAA medical waiver document and name the individual(s) to whom they grant access to information. 

Many versions of HIPAA release forms exist, and you can find them for free online or get one from your child’s primary care doctor’s office, clinic, or a hospital. Some states do require that the young adult’s signature be witnessed or even notarized, and others do not, so be sure to look into the requirements for where your child is and will be living.

2. Medical Power of Attorney

Every young adult 18 and older should also sign a medical power of attorney. This document will assign an individual to make any health care decisions on their behalf in the unlikely event that they become incapacitated due to a serious injury or illness.

If your adult child doesn’t have a signed medical power of attorney document in place, you as a parent could face the costly and time-consuming legal process of securing guardianship rights in court that would permit you to make decisions on your child’s behalf in the event that it became medically necessary.

Each state has its own rules governing medical power of attorney documents, and many have their own legal forms. If your child is going to college out of state or is simply moving away, it’s important to research the documents you need in both your home state and the state where your child will be living either part-time or permanently. Some states also require the signature of a witness or a notary seal. You can find links to all states’ documents here.

3. Durable Power of Attorney

We know that most young adults still need some financial support from their parents for a number of years past age 18. Many stay covered by their parent’s health and car insurance, and family phone plans until they are in their mid-20s. 

That’s why it’s a good idea to talk to your child about the need for a durable power of attorney which enables parents to handle financial issues if their child were to become incapacitated, or even if they simply choose to study abroad during college.

That way parents can manage their child’s financial obligations including making car payments, paying taxes and student loan bills, and accessing bank accounts, if necessary. Here again, different states have different rules for this document, so look online for your specific state’s laws.

4. A Living Will

No parent wants to think about their young adult being in a situation where they can’t communicate their needs, but a living will is something that every adult should have.

A living will, sometimes called an advance directive, specifies personal choices about life-extending medical treatment in the event that someone can’t communicate those wishes themselves, even though they are alive.

Depending on the jurisdiction, a living will might be combined with a medical power of attorney document, as it specifically expresses a person’s wishes regarding end-of-life decisions. 

5. FERPA Waiver (Optional)

When your child turns 18 or starts college, their academic records become only accessible to them, regardless of who is paying their tuition. Most colleges won’t release academic records to any parent without the student’s written consent, called a FERPA waiver.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act was designed to protect the privacy of children’s educational records, including their report cards, disciplinary actions, and test results, so only parents could view a minor child’s records. 

When a student heads off to college, many parents decide that their child’s academic performance is up to them and should remain private. Others insist their student sign a waiver so they can remain involved and keep an eye on their grades. You need to decide what feels right for your family and have a conversation with your young adult about both their and your feelings on the subject.

Selective Service Registration (Required for Male U.S. Citizens and Immigrants, Ages 18-25)

Selective Service Registration is required for almost all male U.S. citizens and immigrants, ages 18 through 25.

It’s important to know that even though he’s registered, a young man will not automatically be inducted into the military. According to the Selective Service System, “In a national crisis requiring a draft, men would be called in a sequence determined by random lottery number and year of birth. Then, they would be examined for mental, physical, and moral fitness by the military before being deferred or exempted from military service or inducted into the Armed Forces.”

When your child turns 18, it can really take you back a bit. After all, your child is an “official” adult. But taking care of these important documents will provide you with peace of mind as they move on to college, the military, or their career life. 

Additional Resources for Free Legal Documents:


Law Depot

Legal Templates 

Marybeth Bock, MPH, is Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor, and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.


If you enjoyed reading, “5 Legal Documents You Need When Your Child Turns 18,” here are a few other posts you might enjoy reading!

College Health Checklist: 12 Things To Do Before Your Child Leaves Home

Your College Student’s First-Aid Kit: Everything They’ll Need

25 Things to Do With Your Teen Before They Leave Home

Why Not Join Us?
I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )
Join over 3.000 visitors who are receiving our newsletter and learn how to optimize your blog for search engines, find free traffic, and monetize your website.
RAISING TEENS TODAY is a resource and safe zone for parents to share the joys, challenges, triumphs and frustrations of raising our oh, so imperfect (but totally awesome) teens. PLUS, sign up and you'll receive my FREE e-Book "Scoring Scholarships!"

You may also like

Leave a Comment