Turning 18 is an exciting time in a young person’s life, representing the first steps into adulthood. Yet it can also be a stressful time, as it means taking on a slew of new challenges and responsibilities. Making the transition from youth to adulthood can be tough, but if you take a few steps early on, you help to mitigate some confusion and frustration down the line.
To that end, here are five legal documents that you should get as early as possible after you turn 18.
Power of Attorney / Durable Power of Attorney
A power of attorney (or POA) authorizes you to designate an agent to make important legal and financial decisions on your behalf.1 It is typically used so that you have someone who can step in and pay your bills or handle other financial or real estate matters when you are unable to do so. In some cases, it can also be used for one-off situations where it is not convenient for you to be present, such as a real estate closing in another city.2 With a standard POA, the authority it grants ends when the principal is deemed incapable of making decisions for themselves. However, you can also establish a durable power of attorney (DPOA), which allows the document to remain in effect even if you are rendered physically or mentally incapacitated.3
Medical Power of Attorney
A medical POA is an advanced healthcare directive that explains how you want medical decisions to be made on your behalf, assigning an agent to make decisions based on your wishes.4 Since it often covers scenarios where you are physically or mentally incapable of making decisions for yourself, a medical POA is usually also considered a DPOA. A medical POA could be needed temporarily, such as in cases where you are under anesthesia and surgery complications arise, or to help navigate long-term health crisis.5
While a medical POA simply assigns someone to make medical decisions on your behalf, you can also fill out a living will, which sets more specific instructions regarding medical procedures and post-care routines. This includes considerations such as whether you would like life-sustaining medical treatments or feeding and breathing tubes to be used.6 However, a living will is only acted upon if the person in question is unable to speak or otherwise communicate their preferences for themself.
HIPAA Authorization Form
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (or HIPAA) is a federal law that led to the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without their consent or knowledge.7 However, due to these standards, your parents lose access to much of your medical information when you reach adulthood. This can be a problem if you wind up in the hospital, as it means your family and friends could be denied information about your condition or prognosis. As such, you should fill out a HIPAA Authorization Form at the earliest opportunity, as this will allow you to choose who has the authorization to receive details of your medical condition.
FERPA Release Form
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (or FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.8 Parents generally have free access to their child’s educational records, but when someone turns 18 years old or enters a postsecondary institution, the rights under FERPA transfer from the parents to the student. The students’ primary rights include:9
- The right to inspect and review their education record;
- The right to seek to amend their education record; and
- The right to have some control over the disclosure of information from education records.
If you attend any type of postsecondary institution, you will need to fill out a release form if you want your parents or anyone else to have access to your records.
A will is a legal document that spells out your wishes for who does and does not receive your various assets after your death.10 While it might seem a bit early to start planning for such things, it is important to clearly establish your wishes in the event of sudden and unforeseen circumstances. If you do not provide a will, any decisions regarding your property and assets will likely be left in the hands of judges or state officials. This can create tension and additional expenses for family members down the line, so it is best to plan ahead and avoid this possibility.
Though state laws vary on the specific requirements for a will, the most basic conditions are that they are written by someone over the age of majority who is of sound mind.11 This person is referred to as a “testator,” while the person they choose to handle their estate is the “executor.” In addition to writing the will itself, the testator must sign and date the document (usually in front of one or more witnesses) and will often notarize it as well. The most common type of a will is a testamentary will (or last will and testament),12 though there are other types of wills tailored towards specific purposes.
If you have any questions about these or any other legal documents you will need for the future, talk to the professionals at CCSK Law! You can contact us at SUPPORT@CCSKLAW.COM or (219) 230-3600.
1. Kagan, J. (2021, May 19). Power of Attorney: Allowing One Person to Act on Behalf of Another. Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/powerofattorney.asp.
2. Rubin, H. (2021, April 30). Financial vs. Medical Power of Attorney: What’s the Difference? Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/articles/managing-wealth/042216/medical-vs-financial-power-attorney-reasons-separate-them.asp.
3. Irving, S. (2020, August 11). The Durable Power of Attorney: Health Care and Finances. NOLO. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/durable-power-of-attorney-health-finances-29579.html.
4. Rubin, H.
5. Rubin, H.
6. Kaminsky, M. (2021, June 8). What Is the Difference Between a Living Will and a Last Will and Testament? LegalZoom. https://www.legalzoom.com/articles/what-is-the-difference-between-a-living-will-and-a-last-will-and-testament.
7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, September 14). Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/phlp/publications/topic/hipaa.html.
8. U.S. Department of Education. (2020, December 15). Family Educational Rights and Privacy act (FERPA). U.S. Department of Education. https://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html.
9. U.S. Department of Education.
10. Jarrell, M. (2021, May 19). Will vs. Trust: What’s the Difference? Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/051315/will-vs-trust-difference-between-two.asp.
11. Jarrell, M. 12. Kagan, J. (2021, June 9). Testamentary Will. Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/testamentary-will.asp
About the author
Founder/Attorney, CCSK Law
I create customized solutions for families to address their planning needs.
I provide plans clients understand. Also, they make sure they know when to use them, and do so affordably. I love the opportunity to break through the legal jargon to clarify issues. We find success when we work through a person’s situation and put the law to work for them.