Are Powers of Attorney on Your College Checklist?
As one of the many families getting ready to send a child off to college in the next few weeks, you and your son or daughter likely have a long list of must-haves and must-dos to check off before the big day. Registered for orientation? Check. Purchased textbooks, a laptop, and dorm room décor? Check. Check. Check. Executed powers of attorney for your son or daughter? Actually, no.
Why Does My College Student Need a Healthcare Power of Attorney?
Most parents can understand the importance of a healthcare power of attorney for an aging parent or spouse. Still, many fail to realize how important this document is when caring for a child who has just graduated from high school.
When your son or daughter turns 18, they become a legal adult. As an adult, they have certain rights, including privacy rights under HIPAA. It often surprises parents — who have been fully responsible for making decisions regarding their child’s healthcare throughout their life — when they are suddenly unable to consult with their son or daughter’s physician or obtain their medical information.
Simply put, if your young adult child faces a medical issue and cannot give permission for a nurse or doctor to release information to you, then you will not have access to that information. This is the case even if your medical insurance still covers your child — and you are paying the bill.
A healthcare power of attorney is a legal document whereby your son or daughter can designate you as their agent to make healthcare decisions for them if they cannot make decisions for themselves. A healthcare power of attorney also gives you, as your child’s agent, the legal right to access their medical information. Executing a healthcare power of attorney when your son or daughter turns 18 years old is the best way to avoid the possibility of a medical situation that can be challenging, frustrating, and even scary.
Benefits of a Financial Power of Attorney for Your College Student
In addition to a healthcare power of attorney, you may also consider discussing the benefits of a financial power of attorney, also called a durable power of attorney, with your son or daughter. If your child designates you as their agent, this legal document gives you authority over their financial affairs. This includes managing bank accounts, paying bills, and signing tax returns on your child’s behalf if they cannot do so. It also serves as an effective and prudent way for you to assist them with their finances as they mature.
Consult an Estate Planning Attorney for Legal Documents
Each state has laws governing healthcare and financial powers of attorney, and the forms used to grant someone powers of attorney also vary by state. It’s essential to consult an estate planning attorney for advice in your particular circumstance. Your attorney will help you create a comprehensive, legally binding document tailored to your needs.
Signing powers of attorney should be a must-do on your family’s college checklist. Although you may never need them, having these documents in place can save you considerable stress related to medical attention or managing finances for your young adult child if an unexpected situation or emergency arises. Being proactive and planning for such unforeseen challenges is crucial.
Pittsburgh Estates & Trusts Attorneys
Chuck Hadad leads the Estates & Trusts team at The Lynch Law Group. Please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (724) 776-8000 with any questions or for more information related to powers of attorney or other estate planning documents.