Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Our daughter will be 18 in a few weeks. She has announced that at that time she will be of "legal age" and will no longer have to obey us. She believes she can drive anywhere (in our car), buy anything she wants (with our money), and not have to abide by a curfew (while living under our roof and paying no rent).

We have tried to explain that this is not how "legal age" works if she intends to continue living in our house. She insists she has the "right" to demand our money and make the rules.

Would you please shed some light on what "legal age" means? She reads your column. Thank you. –- DISTRAUGHT CHICAGO PARENTS

DEAR DISTRAUGHT: Gladly! It's time your daughter learned the realities of life. First among them is that as long as she lives under your roof and is supported by you, she must be respectful and obey the rules of the house. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I thought you and your readers might be interested in what our local parent-teacher organization publishes for the families of high school students. It's a list of legal documents students should have when they reach their 18th birthday and are legally adults.

1. A will. A will is a document that provides for the way a person's property will be distributed upon death. Without a will, the owner's property will be distributed according to the state statute governing descent.

2. Living Will. This additional document gives specific directions in the event of a terminal condition.

3. General Power of Attorney. Through this legal document, a person appoints or empowers another person to act on his or her behalf. A young adult usually appoints a parent. For example, if the child is away at school, the parent can legally handle banking, motor vehicle and tax return obligations for the student. The document could become especially important should the child become disabled, incompetent or incapacitated, as might happen in an accident.

4. Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. This is similar to the general power of attorney. In this case, the appointed person can make only health care decisions, and they can be made only if the individual does not have the capacity to make informed decisions.

For an unmarried teen, the typical cost of these four documents, prepared by a legal firm, is about $200 to $300. –- OHIO MOM

DEAR OHIO MOM: I'm sure your letter will be a wake-up call to any teen who wants to be a responsible adult.

DEAR ABBY: Recently I was informed that two of my poems are to be published by a prestigious poetry organization. My wife and I are delighted and decided to celebrate.

At first we planned to go to Busch Gardens. Upon reflection, we decided that I should go to the beach alone. We remembered the old adage: "A bard in the sand is worth two in the Busch." –- MARTY IN FALLBROOK, CALIF.

DEAR MARTY: You win. I'm speechless. Not only are you a published bard, but from my perspective, you're quite a card.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600