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What documents do you need when your child turns 18?

Ever since our son turned 18 years old, we get a lot of questions about what documents/platforms we used. This isn't legal advice. You may want to consult a lawyer about this question. Yet, I can tell you that six months into him being 18, the documents we used have worked for doctor's visits and insurance companies.

According to a Google search when a child turns 18, they should consider these legal documents:

  • Durable power of attorney - Used for financial purposes - We have both parents listed in one document. Plus, a "notice to person accepting the appointment as attorney-in-fact" for both parents.

  • Advance health care directive/HIPAA release - Allows you to manage your child's finances and healthcare if they become incapacitated. I'm of the opinion that it is a lot to ask your 18 year old to write their advance health care directive. I suggest having a discussion with them to see if they want to do this. It's a tough conversation and one you hope you never have to reference. Yet, if you ever did, you will be grateful.

  • Living will - A document that is commonly completed by the elderly, but is also recommended for people turning 18. Again, have a conversation around this as they may or may not want to have a living will.

  • Designation of Health Care Surrogate - This document allows your child to designate someone (plus a first and second alternative) to make medical decisions for them if they can't.

  • FERPA release - The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) requires students over 18 to sign a release to give their parents access to their grades, transcripts, and other school information. (Note: Your child has to list the school, so this really can't be done until they select their college.)

  • Advance directive - A legal document that outlines your child's general wishes for medical care

  • HIPAA authorization - When a child reaches age 18, their parents can no longer get access to the child's medical records, this includes insurance information...even though they are listed on your policy. We have two HIPAA authorizations. Each document lists one parent.

Mama Bear Legal Forms is an online will-making software that offers state-specific wills, plus medical power of attorney and financial power of attorney documents. The service is available online or through a mobile app and allows users to download and print their own documents once completed. It has a fee (as of January 2024) of $159 for a will, medical power of attorney and financial power of attorney. You can make changes to your documents for free for six months or pay a one-time $29 fee to make changes after that. When we were researching, this seemed like a convenient option. Yet, with very little legwork, all of this can be done for free (see below for that). Note: If you are going to use Mama Bear, you might want to ask a friend if they use it as their account will give you a discount code (from what I understand, they get a little kickback too).

If you want to have these documents for no cost, you can use That's what we did. Here are the simple steps:

  • You print the documents you and your child want. Use the list above to decide what you need.

  • Sign them with a notary (our bank did it for free).

  • Scan them into a PDF.

  • Email the PDF to everyone who should have access (for us, it was both parents and our son).

  • Ask everyone involved to make a folder in their email called "18+ Documents" (see photo) and the email is saved there for everyone (again, my husband, my son, and me).

The convenience of Mama Bear is that all of the documents are on one app and everyone has that app on their phone. The way we did it, everyone has the documents on their phone as well. We also have a file of the hardcopies in our home where we store paperwork.

I don't know that one (Mama Bear or Rocket Lawyer) is better than the other. As I stated above, our son has been 18 for over 6 months and these documents have worked for us. Thankfully, he hasn't had a medical emergency but we have had to present them for me to speak to a doctor over the phone and to get information from our insurance regarding billing.

One last thought is that if your child is going to college out of state, you should do a quick search about any documents that might be needed in that state. Again, this is not legal advice. I suggest always asking an attorney if you have any questions.

Note: This is not affiliated in any way and simply my own thoughts on the subject.


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