What new legal rights and responsibilities do 18-year-olds have?
Although many parents continue to support young adults for some time, an 18-year-old has the legal right to move out on their own and take care of all of their own needs. This new freedom includes responsibilities like managing finances, medical insurance, housing needs and food. They now have the right to vote and they might be drafted into the military. Also, your young adult does not have the same legal protections they did as a child, and likely would be treated as an adult if they commit a crime.
Communication throughout your child's teenage years is always helpful when preparing your child for adulthood. It's a good idea to explain to your young adult that any contract they sign is binding, and they can get into legal trouble if they don't adhere to the contract’s terms. This includes signing for a new credit card, cell phone, or apartment.
What are common legal issues young adults face?
It's easy for young adults to become overwhelmed with their new responsibilities. Though they don't need to learn everything overnight, modeling responsible adult behavior and practicing with various contract types is never a bad idea.
Housing and Rental Agreements: Even if your young adult isn't moving out for some time, discussing roommate arrangements or Cohabitation Agreements can be beneficial. As a teaching tool, you might have your young adult sign a Cohabitation Agreement with you, so they can better understand the responsibilities they could face once they move out of your house and in with someone else. Roommate Agreements and Pre Rental Inspection Checklists are also forms they might encounter as part of the moving out process. And if they already have moved out to an apartment, for example, they may need to learn how to file a Complaint to Landlord form.
Transportation and Work: Buying a used car may likely be something they will need to do as they mature. Take time to explain the challenges and legalities of buying a used vehicle and provide tips and tools they can use when it comes time to evaluate any potential used car they want to purchase. Also, if your young adult is working, it's a good idea that they know the difference between being an employee versus an independent contractor and how income taxes are filed in each of these situations.
What documents should I have ready by the time my child turns 18?
Once your child turns 18, they might consider creating or updating a Living Will or a Last Will and Testament. What's more, you might want to discuss the importance of having another adult in their life whom they trust to watch over their medical care and bank accounts should they become hurt or ill. It is likely that your young adult still wants you involved in their medical care, especially in the event of an emergency.
If your adult child does not have a significant other, they might want want someone who can handle decisions for them if they are incapacitated. The following documents might make it easier for you to provide that protection and guidance:
- The HIPPA Authorization Form allows your young adult's treatment providers to discuss medical issues.
- A Durable Power of Attorney assigns someone to look after their finances if they can’t do it themselves.
- A Medical Power of Attorney will allow your adult child to assign an individual who can speak to doctors on their behalf. This could be considered a vital document for parents of young adults, especially if they still live at home. You may want to discuss Advanced Directives with your young adult, which outlines what they want to happen if they are sick and unable to speak on their own behalf.
You may want to consider a FERPA release, which is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, allowing you and your young adult protections against what educational information is released. A FERPA release helps to protect certain educational information and can allow you to communicate with your young adult's school. Most colleges and universities offer FERPA release forms to students who wish to sign one.
How do I communicate my estate plan to my child?
Talk to your adult child about your estate plan in simple terms. They should know where your Last Will and Testament is and where your Advanced Directives or Durable Power of Attorney forms are located. You don't have to share your entire estate plan the day your child becomes an adult, but you might consider informing them about where the paperwork is kept.
It may be a good idea to talk to your child about your personal Advanced Directives and Durable Power of Attorney choices when you work with them on their forms. You could share the name of the attorney holding your will, as well as their phone number. It's a good idea to let your young adult know who the executor is on your will and who they should talk to if something happens to you.
You can always reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice about the different documents you and your child might consider setting up as your child turns 18.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.