Dad Law: I Cannot Believe They’re Adults! (Part 1)

With my oldest daughter now 18 and preparing to go off to college this fall, I suddenly realized that, difficult though it may be for me to comprehend, legally she is an adult. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, once a person attains the age of 18, he or she is considered an adult. M.G.L. ch. 231, § 85P.

Before sending your own child off to college, keep in mind that he or she should have certain basic documents in place before they are needed. Without these basic documents, if, as, and, when there is a problem, a family must go to court in order to legally represent the adult student. The necessary documents include:

  • A Health Care Proxy (HCP). A HCP allows an agent to make health care decisions in the event that the adult student cannot speak for himself or herself. A HCP allows the adult student’s wishes to be followed even when he or she is incapable of communicating.
  • A Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA). A DPOA is an authorization to act on the adult student’s behalf in any legal or business matter. Additionally, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects the privacy of adult students’ education records. Before parents may have access to their child’s college grades and records, a DPOA needs to be in place and/or the child must authorize the school to release information to the parents.
  • A Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) release form. HIPPA is a federal law that forbids the release of any medical information without a signed, written authorization.
  • A Will. If your adult student has “valuable assets,” a properly drafted Will, of course, is necessary.

As important as it is for your adult student to have these documents in place, of course all adults should have these documents in place. Unfortunately, bad things sometimes happen to good people. Plan now to avoid regrets later!

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