Coming of Age- Do You Know Someone Turning 18?

18If you are like this author , someone close to you may be about to turn eighteen years of age.  This post will discuss the legal ramifications of turning eighteen.  Additional rights and privileges as well as legal responsibilities occur once a “child” becomes eighteen.  Such a person can now vote, run for office, legally support oneself, and be employed full-time.  An eighteen year old male will be penalized if he does not register for the military draft.  All eighteen year olds are treated as adults if they commit a crime.  Since we  practice particular areas of law, this author will address the implications of turning eighteen as they apply to those areas of law.  Also, rights and obligations vary by state, so this post will only address these matters as they relate to New York.

Eighteen year olds have the right to enter a contract and to apply for credit.  Therefore, our soon-to-be eighteen year old can apply for a mortgage and sign a contract to buy a house.  Contracts involving real estate, whether for sale or for a lease of more than one year must be in writing.

Once a person is eighteen, he can make a Will and other estate documents.  While we do not want to consider that someone so young may pass away, without a Will, his assets will be distributed according to New York’s intestacy law.  Also, an eighteen year old can inherit from someone who named him in a Will or in an Administration proceeding if he is of the proper degree of relation according to the New York statute.  Since many eighteen year olds may not be sophisticated enough to inherit substantial assets, those drafting Wills may decide to leave such assets to the child in trust until such age as they anticipate that the child will be mature enough to manage the assets.

Medical privacy laws come into effect for eighteen year olds.  Prior to turning eighteen, a parent has access to all of her child’s medical records and can make health care decisions in the event that the child is unable to participate in such decisions or does not agree with the parent.  Once the “child” becomes eighteen, the parent is excluded from access to the child’s medical records and cannot make decisions on behalf of the child, even if the child happens to agree with such decisions.  It is prudent to have your attorney  draft the proper documents, such as a medical release, living will, health care proxy and power of attorney in case the child needs emergency medical care and is unable to communicate his wishes for treatment.

Eighteen year olds can sue or be sued.  In such an event, these individuals should be acquainted with qualified attorneys to bring or defend such lawsuits.

A specialized type of contract that can be signed by an eighteen year old is a lease.  Since many eighteen year olds do not have the financial qualifications to be acceptable to a landlord, many landlords may require that the child’s parents guarantee the lease.  This means that if the child does not pay the rent and other monetary obligations, that the landlord can collect such sums due from the parents.  Many young people have roommates who share the rent obligation.  Most leases provide that each roommate is jointly and severally liable for lease obligations.  This means that any one of the roommates may have to pay the entire rent if another roommate leaves and does not pay the rent.  As such, it is important to find reliable roommates and guarantors.  If the rent is not paid, the landlord can bring a non-payment action against the eighteen year old.

Although eighteen year olds are considered legally emancipated, with the right to live independently of their parents, in reality most of these young adults remain financially and emotionally dependent on their parents.  Our firm is available to consult with you on the legal needs pertaining to this transition.