Guest post by Cherish De la Cruz

The following discussion is applicable to Georgia residents. If you have questions and live outside of Georgia, speak with an attorney in your state of residence as laws vary.

As a parent of three young children, I always want to make sure they are cared for and protected. All of the parents I know want to make ensure that their children are safe. When children were younger, it means making sure that they were in the right car seat or eating  healthy food. 

But caring for a child takes a different form as they get older and become more independent. This is especially true when your baby turns 18 and is officially an adult. He or she may have moved out of your house, may be going to college, opened their own bank account, or bought their own car. This independence brings with it a new set of responsibilities and changes the dynamic of the adult-child relationship. 

In the eyes of the law, your child is legally an adult. This means that you, as the parent, have no say with respect to your child’s decisions about his or her health and finances. So as a parent, how do you still protect your child now that they are legally of age? 

One way is to make sure they have an Advanced Health Care Directive in place so he or she can appoint you as their health care agent. This means that you can make health care decisions for your children if they are incapacitated or unable to speak for themselves. For example, if your child gets sick or injured while he or she is at college or traveling and someone needs to make medical decisions for them, an Advanced Health Care Directive allows you to be that person. It also gives you the right to gain access to your child’s medical records, if needed. 

Without such a directive, you would have to go to court to be appointed as their Guardian to make medical decisions for your sick or incapacitated child who cannot speak for themselves. This is a costly and time consuming process that can take months and cost several thousand dollars in attorney and court fees. When your child is sick, this is the last thing you want to worry about, so get peace of mind by having an Advanced Health Care Directive in place before it is needed.   

Additionally, a Financial Power of Attorney can help you protect your child’s finances. An agent, under a financial power of attorney, has the ability to do a number of things, including accessing your child’s bank accounts or paying their bills. Due to privacy regulations, bank and creditors will not provide your child’s information to you without a Financial Power of Attorney in place. With it, however, you can pay your child’s rent, cell phone bills, car payments and any other bills, if your child is sick and cannot do this for themselves, ensuring their bills are paid and protecting their credit rating.  

Planning and protecting your children’s future is at the core of your responsibilities as a parent, so take these small but significant steps when they turn 18. You will sleep better at night knowing that your child is protected. 

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Cherish De la Cruz established De la Cruz Law, LLC in 2013 to help multigenerational families plan their futures. As a mother of three young children and as the daughter of aging baby boomer parents, she is both personally and professionally fluent in the complexities that arise in ensuring that family members can thrive throughout the aging process. She can be reached via email at cherish@delacruz-law.com or you can learn more about her and her firm by visiting her website at www.delacruz-law.com