Power of attorney documents for your college bound children
Power of attorney documents is undoubtedly not very high on your to-do list for sending your child off to college. You’ve circled Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond several times by now, trying to gather up all the dorm essentials. You’ve gone over the first semester’s schedule, reviewed good safety guidelines, and bought all the high-priced books necessary for success. What’s more…you’re preparing for that tough goodbye, determined you’ll keep it together and save any tears for the ride home – whether it’s a five minute drive, or a plane trip across the country. Your child is beginning a new and exciting chapter in his or her life, and you couldn’t be more proud.
For 18 years, you’ve been the voice and advocate for your child legally, medically, financially, academically – all of it. So it may come as a surprise to learn that when your child turns 18 and graduates high school, you’ve lost all legal authority as a parent. Sure, you may be anticipating this outcome when it comes to everyday matters, but have you thought about the implications for not-so-everyday matters?
Consider the following scenarios:
Laura is a second year student at Virginia Tech. Her parents, Steve and Catherine, live in Dallas. One morning, Laura’s roommate Emily calls: Laura has been in a car accident and was taken by ambulance to the local hospital. The only thing Emily can tell them is that she is in serious condition, but is stable. Steve picks up Catherine at the elementary school where she is a teacher, and tells her the news. They get the first flight available – but it won’t leave for another 3 hours. The waiting is agony. Steve calls the hospital that Emily thought Laura was taken to. However, a staff member informs him that since their child did not sign a Medical Power of Attorney and HIPAA Release, they cannot talk with them or update them on Laura’s condition. They will not even officially verify she is a patient, let alone discuss the nature of her injuries or any procedures.
Mike is a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin. His parents reside in Plano and during the Fall Semester they enjoyed taking weekend trips to see their son and take in a football game. But for the Spring Semester, Mike heads to China for a travel abroad opportunity. After he leaves, a problem arises with the Office of Financial Aid: Mike failed to sign a promissory note for his student loan. His parents receive a call when attempts to reach Mike at other phone numbers have failed. They offer to drive to Austin and sign any necessary documents on Mike’s behalf, but since Mike has not authorized them to act on his behalf with a Durable Power of Attorney, they are told they are not able to do so.
A power of attorney documented would have saved the day
In each of these scenarios, proper legal documents would have prevented such outcomes. You never want to presume that the law will grant you any authority over your adult child – even in emergency situations. No matter how dependent your child remains financially and emotionally for the next few years, the law regards him or her as an adult with complete autonomy. While this is obviously a good, desirable, and natural part of maturing into a responsible adult, there are some important steps to be taken. Your child is now an adult and needs the same protective documents that you do. We all need people we trust to speak or act on our behalf if ever we cannot.
Have your child visit with a qualified attorney to discuss options. Consider a Medical Power of Attorney, HIPAA Release and Durable Power of Attorney for your college-aged child. A good plan will maintain your child’s autonomy and ensure that his or her interests will be protected and well represented by a trusted individual if the need ever arises.
Parents and college-aged young adults: don’t stress, but do be prepared. Then embark on this new phase of your lives with confidence!
If you’d like to learn more, schedule a visit at our office to discuss the legal documents you’ll need and the protection each will provide.