Congratulations! Your Child Just Turned 18...

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Congratulations! Your child just turned 18, they are an "adult" now, or at least in the eyes of the law. So, what's next? This time of year, you're attending graduations and preparing to ship your kid off into the real world as an adult. And, although, discussing their post-high school plans, shopping for their dorm rooms, and worrying about future roommates is a crucial part of the preparations, you may be forgetting one of the most critical actions you can take before you kid leaves the nest. Ask them to sign a durable power of attorney and HIPAA authorization form, and health care proxy or advance directive.

These estate planning documents often only thought in your golden years, are essential for young adults too. Without them, in most states parents do not have the authority to make health care decisions or manage money for their children once they turn 18—even if they are paying the tuition, still have those kids on their health insurance plans and claim them as dependents on their tax returns. That means if your young adult is in an accident and becomes disabled, even temporarily, a parent might need court approval to act on his or her behalf.

It is widely reported that accidents are the leading cause of disability and death for young adults, and approximately 250,000 young adults between 18 and 25 are hospitalized with nonlethal injuries each year.

After what sometimes seems like endless years spent raising a child, their adulthood—and all the rights that go with it—may creep up suddenly. And much as you hope you've prepared them to take care of themselves, you may still be their fallback for emergencies. Getting the necessary authority to play that role can be a rite of passage and a learning experience for both parent and child.