Family Law Attorneys: Make These Updates When a Client's Child Turns 18

Family law attorneys are at the center of clients’ most personal conflicts. Negotiating a divorce, pre-nup or child custody and support can trigger deep fears, and client reactions can run the gamut from anger to despair.

Much of your role is focused on helping your family law clients navigate the short-term stresses of these legal arrangements. But engaging in a multi-year relationship means you’ll need to revisit their agreements once a child turns 18.

While it’s a date worth celebrating, clients also need reminding that their parental rights diminish once their child becomes a legal adult. Legally, your clients now need their child’s permission to access important medical, financial and educational information, and to make decisions on their children’s behalf.

HIPAA authorization

Even if your clients’ kids are living at home and availing themselves of free room and board, they’ll need a signed HIPAA release to access their kids’ health records once they turn 18. HIPAA forms grant partial or full access to medical records and can be pre-populated and e-signed through Smokeball’s YoCierge integration.

Durable power of attorney for health care

The inability to access health records without permission is one thing. But a lack of medical decision-making power, even in emergencies, on behalf of adult children is next-level distressing. A medical or health care power of attorney solves this. Generally, the medical power of attorney is only active if your client’s adult children are physically or mentally incapable of making their own medical decisions.

Living will

It’s also important for young adults to document their wishes regarding life-extending medical treatment and organ donations. A living will protects the child’s rights while saving parents agonizing decisions if a child is on life support.

Durable power of attorney for business

Your clients also need a power of attorney to handle their children’s business, including signing tax returns, renewing car registrations and accessing bank accounts, in case of incapacitation or international travel like study abroad. If your clients are uncomfortable asking for blanket access, you can assure them their kids can restrict the types of transactions and can set a timeframe, including start/stop dates. Establishing joint bank accounts with their children, if all parties are comfortable, also helps clients stay looped in on their adult children’s’ finances.

FERPA release

Here’s irony: Your clients are paying their college kids’ tuition, but they don’t automatically have the right to transcripts and other education records. While most public schools and universities notify parents of their need for a Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) release, it doesn’t hurt to remind parents their children have the right to refuse.

Will

Executing a will is important for every adult, including those who have just turned 18. But 41% of adults 18-34 haven’t even broached the topic of estate planning with a parent, spouse, sibling or other source of support. And just 24% have completed an estate planning document. Support your clients in holding this tough conversation and get the documentation process started ASAP.

Annual review

Parents of new adults also need to revisit their own legal documents, including wills, trusts, insurance policies, deeds, beneficiary designation forms and medical powers of attorney and advance directives. Help them determine whether they’d like their newly adult child to become their power-of-attorney or executor in any or all possible scenarios. They’ll also need to consider any mandates or guidelines for trusts or bequests, such as age restrictions for distribution.

How Smokeball can help

When they turn 18, your clients’ children may choose to retain your services separately from their parents. Because all their personal details and records are already attached to their parents’ related Smokeball matter, it’s easy to make the transition.

If your family law clients and their children do choose to complete any of the above forms, you’ll find them in Smokeball’s library of 18,000+ automated forms. This ensures clients complete the most up-to-date versions, populated with details from their Smokeball matter.

Family law documents aren’t a set-it-and-forget-it proposition. That’s where Smokeball’s legal tasks and workflows come in. Set up automatic reminders for each client matter ahead of important dates like an 18th birthday, and it’ll show up as a to-do with plenty of time to take action.

Gain personalized support for your firm

Learn more about how Smokeball helps family law offices Run Your Best Firm. Schedule your free demo today.

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