Coming of Age
Spring has finally arrived after a long winter filled with lots of snow and cold temperatures. Along with the seasonal transition come many other changes as well. Spring time means that many of our teenagers will be preparing for senior prom, the conclusion of high school, and the advent of college.
The majority of teenagers celebrate their 18th birthday during their senior year of high school, or early in their freshman year in college. For many purposes under the law they become adults. Curfews no longer apply (at least the legal ones, but hopefully your parental ones still do), and they are even old enough to marry without parental consent. Young adults can be charged as adults for even the most minor of criminal offenses.
There are also many other new responsibilities or privileges that are suddenly applicable. Our children need to know and understand the legal consequences of becoming an adult. The Indiana State Bar Association publishes a great reference for young adults. It provides a basic overview of various areas of the law. I am happy to provide a copy to you or your teenager upon request.
Many parents are surprised to find that they no longer have direct access to their child’s educational, medical and even some financial information once that child turns eighteen. With the proper legal documents in place, and with the agreement of your new young adult, that same access may continue.
Powers of Attorney are often helpful for young adults. The documents can give financial and/or medical powers to another person. For example, your young adult can execute a Power of Attorney to allow you to access financial accounts as well as healthcare and educational records. Effectively, it may allow you similar access to information that you had before that child turned eighteen. The majority of young adults I see do name a parent or parents on financial and health care powers. If assets are titled in the name of your teenager, a simple Will or appropriate document may also be needed.
As our children prepare for life after high school, be certain that they have a basic understanding of the legal consequences of becoming an adult. In addition, let them know that they are able to sign various estate planning documents and/or powers of attorney that will allow you to continue to assist them. Most of our new young adults can still use our help as they take this first step towards independence.