It is that time of year, school is back in session. Many parents and many of our clients are sending their kids to college. At this point, something all parents should do is encourage their kids to get a power of attorney, its important.
We understand that this is not something on kid’s minds right now. But as parents, having a power of attorney in place usually prevents you from having to go to court to get permission to act as your child’s proxy. Which is both expensive and time consuming. A power of attorney that’s validly executed in the state in which an individual has full-time residency is usually honored across the U.S. But if a child attends school out of state, we recommend having your attorney contact an attorney where the school is located to confirm this.
Without a Power of Attorney, in most states, parents don’t have the authority to make health care decisions or manage money for their kids once they turn 18—even if they are paying the tuition, have those kids on their health insurance plans and claim them as dependents on their tax returns. That means if a young adult is in an accident and becomes disabled, even temporarily, a parent might need court approval to act on his or her behalf.
While parents can’t force their child to draft or sign a power of attorney, they are the best person to broach the topic because children need to hear about this from an adult they trust.
In many states, a power of attorney for health care is pretty broad, covering such factors as access to medical records, whether to discharge a patient from a hospital and when to withdraw life-sustaining treatment. Language can also be included that discusses details regarding organ and tissue donation and how to dispose of remains. A good way to approach the topic of health care with your child is to simply explain to them what the document does and to let them know that their designated power of attorney will do what they think is best. If children trust their parents, they should trust what they’ll do for them.
College students typically don’t have many financial assets, but they may have bank accounts, credit cards and apartment leases in their name. Digital assets can also be added to a financial power of attorney. This includes online accounts students have with financial institutions and their school, and their social media and e-mail accounts. Without access to these accounts, parents might not know about bills, potential account overdrafts and doctors their children are seeing.
Depending how a power of attorney is set up, a student can give a parent authorization to see grades, reports from teachers and outstanding tuition balances. A student with privacy concerns can consider restricting a parent’s authority to bills only.
By preparing these documents for their health care and financial needs, kids can grant their parents legal authority to act on their behalf should they become incapacitated while attending school.
If you are a parent sending your child to college, this is an important subject you should address. If you need advice or have questions about Powers of Attorney, please give our office a call at 818.887.9401.