The transition to an empty nest can be difficult and exciting all at the same time. Having kids live at home full time is quite different than when our kids go to college and return home for school breaks and summer vacations. There are many aspects of change in this new chapter of life. The following recommendations provide some tips on how to proceed.

Legal Documents parents should consider when their children turn 18

When your child turns 18 there are many firsts. They graduate from high school, plan to go to college, vote for the first time, and it is the year your child becomes an adult in the eyes of the law.

Many parents and children are surprised when suddenly school, state, and health care officials are no longer able to share medical or financial information with parents.  It is important to consider putting legal documents such as the durable power of attorney for health care and for property, and the advanced health care directive into place once the child turns 18.

Health Care Power of Attorney

We usually think of older people needing a durable power of attorney for health care, but it is equally important for college-aged children. This is sometimes called a health care proxy. It gives parents the ability to make decisions about their child’s health care if the child becomes unable. If a student goes to school out of state, it is important for that child to have a health care power of attorney for both states because some health care professionals may be hesitant to accept a form they do not recognize.

HIPAA Authorization

The HIPAA Authorization allows doctors to speak about a student’s medical condition to whomever the student chooses.

The student should fill out a HIPAA authorization giving parents the full access to the students’ health information under any circumstances. You will need this authorization to show to the doctor, hospital, or college if you need access to your child’s private medical information.

Financial Power of Attorney

This document allows parents to manage their child’s finances. Depending on how it is worded, it can become effective immediately or on a future date. It can authorize parents to act on their children’s behalf in all financial matters or it can set certain limits. The financial power of attorney can be useful if a student has a car accident or falls ill, leaving them permanently or temporarily unable to make financial decisions.

Advance Directive or Living Will

It is helpful to have your child make their wishes known should there be a tragic accident.  Unfortunately, car crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens.  Advance Directives outline a person’s wishes regarding life extending treatments and organ donations. This is a difficult subject but putting this in place can save you from having to make decisions during a tragic time.

Simplifying your Files, Paperwork, and Banking

You have kept everything from original birth certificates to disposable gas station receipts. For all the stuff in the middle, bills you receive in the mail, tax returns, and medical records, you can toss in the shredding machine and away they go. Receiving bank statements online instead of in the mail will also help eliminate boxes of files and free up office and garage space. To make things easier, consider purchasing a portable scanner to upload your important files onto an external hard drive. Last but definitely not least, you do not need as many credit cards, maybe fewer bank accounts. Think of this as simplifying your new empty-nester status!

Review your estate plan

Like most parents, you probably drew up your estate plan when you started having kids. Realistically you probably have not reviewed the details of that plan since your kids were in diapers. However, your life is different today, and your estate plan should reflect that. Instead of your plan stipulating who would get guardianship of your children, you may want to focus on how to divide your family’s assets among your children. In fact, you may even want to name one of your children as an executor of your will, a successor beneficiary on investment accounts, or give them power of attorney in the event you are incapacitated. While these can be difficult conversations to have with loved ones, they’re also important. Lastly, working with a financial advisor to revisit savings, spending, and retirement planning strategies can help you validate that these life changes have a positive long-term impact on your life.

At some point financial reorganization is vital. My Personal Bookkeeper can help you through the process.  Visit us at to learn more about our services and how our trained team of client advocates can help ease the transition of becoming an empty nester.



Nancy Taxman is a client advocate for My Personal Bookkeeper. She has recently become an empty nester. Nancy enjoys assisting clients in finding order and peace of mind by helping with bills, paperwork, other household details, and advocating for her clients when the need arises. Her approachable personality is a perfect balance of her skills and attention to detail. Nancy understands the needs of her clients. She has worked in the fields of business development and has extensive experience understanding clients’ needs.