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Important Legal Advice as Your Child Heads Off to College

So, your "baby" is now 18 and about to trade his bedroom for a dorm room. It is a moment toward which you have saved and worked as a parent for many years - college! You have been a steadying force in your child's life for all this time and part of all the important decisions that he/she has made. Yet, you may not realize - now that he or she is 18 - you no longer legally have automatic access to your child's health and financial information nor a voice in some of the decisions your child can make.

In Colorado, the age of majority is 18 and a person is considered an adult for most matters (with some exceptions, like drinking alcohol, renting cars, and purchasing a hotel room). Under state law, your child is now deemed competent to enter into a legally binding contract, manage an estate, bring a lawsuit, vote in elections and join the military without guardian permission.

In addition, state statutes also provide that your 18-year-old son or daughter is legally capable of making decisions regarding his/her own body and consenting to medical treatment. Similarly, federal health privacy laws no longer consider a parent to be a legal representative of a child who is 18. Therefore, though you may want to discuss your 18-year-old 's health issues with his doctor or campus services, you may very well be precluded from doing so. You may run into the same roadblock in discussing your child's financial account status or credit card balance with the bank, unless you jointly own the account.

Certainly, part of raising a child to age 18 is learning to let go and having him or her face the responsibility that comes with adulthood. However, there are times when a parent might need to have quick access to a child's financial or medical information. Therefore, in order to avoid some of these potential roadblocks, it is advisable to have your 18-year-old son or daughter sign powers of attorney for both health and medical purposes, if needed (subject to whatever reasonable boundaries you might want to establish). In most instances, documents needed for this purpose can be drafted with minimal time and expense, and can likely save some parental headaches down the road as your child gets settled into college life and his/her burgeoning adulthood.

If you have additional questions or concerns regarding these types of documents, we have several knowledgeable attorneys experienced in these types of issues who can assist you. Please give us a call at 970-482-4011.

Written by Kimberly B. Schutt, Esq.

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