18 and Legal

Question: My daughter turns 18 this month.  You wrote a column about the legal and financial implications a while ago.  Can you please refresh my memory?

Answer: Sure.  Turning 18 is a significant legal event because your “minor” child has now reached the age of majority and is legally an adult.  She is now your “adult child.” She can now get her own Costco membership card, vote, serve on jury duty, buy a rifle or shotgun but not a handgun, sign a contract, buy property, get married, sue somebody, make a will, inherit property outright, consent to her own medical treatment, and join the military. Here is what you as a parent need to know once your child turns 18:               

  • He or she can be arrested and charged as an adult for even minor offenses.  You may not even know that your child has been arrested and charged with a crime unless he or she tells you.
  • He or she assumes responsibility and liability for their own traffic violations or accidents.
  • If your adult child owns his own automobile he should have his own insurance.
  • You, as parents, should be on the adult child’s bank accounts and debit cards so you can access accounts in an emergency.
  • If you have California Uniform Trust for Minors Act (CUTMA) accounts for your adult child without an age 21 provision, the accounts must be turned over to your adult child.
  • Parents should get a durable power of attorney for finances. It is a simple and inexpensive way to arrange for you as a parent to handle your adult child’s finances if he or she were to become unable to make decisions due to incapacitation.
  • Depending upon the value of your adult child’s assets, he or she should have a will and possibly a trust so that their assets avoid probate. This is something to discuss with your estate-planning attorney.
  • Parents should obtain a Power of Attorney for Health Care for the adult child, and the adult child should give a copy of the document to his or her primary care provider. If your child is ill or injured in an accident at home or while away attending college, you will want the right to speak to attending medical personnel. HIPAA Privacy laws prohibit doctors and hospitals from revealing medical information to anyone not authorized by the patient.
  • All males must register with the Selective Service System within 30 days of their 18th birthday.  Women are currently exempt.  Failure to register has consequences.  It could result in a maximum $250,000 fine and/or five years in prison.  In addition, your son must be registered to qualify for federal and state student aid, a federal or state job, and federal or state job training. He can register online at www.ssa.org, in person at a local post office, on by filling in and mailing back the card he is likely to receive in the mail from the Selective Service around the time of his 18th birthday.
  • Finally, just like the rest of us, adult children should sign an Advance Health Care Directive. This document will give them the opportunity to state their wishes regarding being kept alive by heroic means in the unlikely event of serious injury or illness. 

Kenneth B. Petersen CFP®, EA, MBA, AIFA® is an investment advisor and Principal of Monterey Private Wealth, Inc., a Wealth Management Firm in Monterey.   He welcomes questions that you may have concerning investing, taxes, retirement, or estate planning.  Send your questions to: Ken Petersen, 2340 Garden Road Suite 202, Monterey, CA93940 or email them to ken@montereypw.com.