How to Protect Your Child With the Right Legal Documents After They Turn 18

By: John Whitbeck


They may be adults now, but that doesn’t mean we parents don’t want to do everything we can to protect them. As your son or daughter heads to college, moves out, or stays living with you as a young adult, there are two important legal documents you need to protect your adult child.

1. Advance Medical Directive

In a medical emergency where your child is incapacitated, two problems arise. First, who is going to make medical decisions for an adult child? Second, how do you get around privacy laws (e.g., HIPAA) now that your child’s an adult?

In Virginia, the answer is an Advance Medical Directive (AMD). 

An AMD appoints you and/or your spouse as your child’s agent to make medical decisions for them in the event they are incapable of making an informed decision about their healthcare. An AMD can be as broad or as limited as you want, but in most cases, a family will execute an AMD with broad powers granted to parents in the event their child can’t make medical decisions for themselves.   

It also can contain language that grants you access to healthcare information that would otherwise be private. This access can be granted for all times, even when your child is not incapacitated, provided the language required by HIPAA is included in the documents. That’s why it’s essential to have an attorney with experience with these documents draft an AMD for you. 

2. General Durable Power of Attorney

All kinds of situations can arise with respect to your child’s property, bank accounts, cars, etc., when they become adults. Many young adults are not ready to manage these decisions alone, or their parents need to make decisions or take action for them when they go out of state for college or work. That’s why you should have an attorney help you obtain a General Durable Power of Attorney (POA).

A POA enables you to make financial and property decisions on your son or daughter’s behalf. The POA gives you the power immediately upon its execution in most cases. Still, you can also do a POA that limits your power to those situations when your child is incapacitated.  

Some of the useful things a POA can let you do for your child include signing tax returns, accessing bank accounts, paying bills, making changes to financial aid packages, and get a car fixed.  

As soon as your child turns 18, you should have your attorney draft these documents and get them signed. Parents lose a lot of authority when their children become adults, and sometimes that can lead to complications in emergencies. Having an AMD and a POA will put you in the best position to do what you’ve always done: protect what matters most to you – your children.  

Call us today to get your AMD and POA done quickly and cost-effectively.  

To learn how our team can assist you, contact WhitbeckBennett by calling 800-516-3964 or emailing clientservices@wblaws.com.

To learn more about healthcare POA, visit our Financial & Healthcare Power of Attorney page.

Related: Financial & Healthcare Power of Attorney

John Whitbeck

John Whitbeck


John C. Whitbeck, Jr. is the founder of WhitbeckBennett. His practice focuses on family law, special education law, and mental health law. He regularly practices in several jurisdictions in the Northern Virginia area. He has also been certified as an expert witness in litigation.


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