Can I Make Decisions for My 18-Year-Old ‘Kid’ if Incapacitated?

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KS and MO Attorney Kyle E Krull

Written by Kyle Krull

Attorney & Counsellor at Law Kyle Krull is president of the Law Offices of Kyle E. Krull, P.A., an Estate Planning Law Firm located in Overland Park, KS. Estate Planning Attorney Kyle Krull has provided continuing education instruction to attorneys, accountants, and financial professionals at local, state, and national programs.

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POSTED ON: June 14, 2022

Incapacity can occur because of illness or an accident. It can be temporary or permanent. That’s why every adult needs a power of attorney in place, once they turn eighteen.

Your "legal relationship" with your newly-minted adult child has changed.

Whether off to post-secondary education (college or to earn a vocational certification), off to work, or off to do a stint in the military, your child has become an adult.


What if he or she is in an auto accident and in a coma, has a sudden debilitating health condition, or is deployed overseas and needs financial matters handled stateside?

Do you as parent have authority to make health care and financial decisions for him or her?

After all, you are still the "parent," right?

Unfortunately, while your still are the "parent," you might as well be a "stranger" legally speaking.


According to a recent article from The Press-Enterprise titled “Legal documents for young adults,” at age 18 your adult child needs some essential estate planning.

Your adult child will be vulnerable without estate planning documents.

Parents will be limited in how they can support their adult child if this young adult does not have certain documents in place.

Here are three fundamental legal documents that should be inked without delay:

Advance Health Care Directive. In our practice, this is a two page legal document.

This first page is the "Health Care Treatment Directive," which provides guidance for your child's medical wishes in the event he or she is unable to communicate those wishes.

The second page is the "Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Matters," which gives authority to designated "agents"  to make such decisions.

Along with the "Advance Health Care Directive" we also prepare an "Anatomical Gift Declaration" to help ease the heartache parents experience if a "harvest team" of surgeons ever asks them about organ donations.

HIPAA Waiver. This critical legal document authorizes release of medical information and records to the designated agents.

Consider this a supplement to the "Advance Health Care Directive" described above.

We are finding that most doctors and hospitals like to see this as a standalone document, even though we include a "HIPAA Waiver" as one of the enumerated powers in the "Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Matters."

General Durable Power of Attorney. Consider this the complementary legal document to those above, but for financial matters.

One version of this document is "springing," which means it only becomes effective when your adult child is actually confirmed incapacitated. The other, more preferred and practical version, takes effect immediately.

A "General Durable Power of Attorney," whether springing or immediate, would allow the designated "attorney in fact" to handle practical financial matters.

These include being able to access bank accounts, pay bills, file insurance claims, engage attorneys or other professionals, and in general, act on behalf of your incapacitated adult child financially.

Remember, once your child turns age 18, he or she is legally an adult.

Make sure you have these legal documents in place in case of an emergency.

In addition to this "incapacity" planning, your child might want to have a "Last Will and Testament" drawn up just in case he or she dies.

Although we do not want to think about outliving our children, it can happen.

Helping your young adult with fundamental estate planning will provide peace of mind for them, as well as for you.

Reference: The Press-Enterprise (April 2, 2022) “Legal documents for young adults”

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