A power of attorney is essential for any college freshman.
Fall is quickly approaching and school is starting back up here in Kansas and Missouri.
While elementary school kiddos have been shopping for pencils, paper, and markers to prepare for school, college students have been buying textbooks and purchasing bedding for their dorms.
Although physical school supplies are certainly important, they may not be the most important preparations to be made by incoming college freshmen.
According to recent U.S. News & World Report article titled “How to Set Up a Power of Attorney,” college students should also prioritize setting up their power of attorney documents.
While the last thing on the minds of families preparing to launch their newly adult children is estate planning, sending an adult child off to school.
After a person turns age 18, most states consider them to be adults.
This means parents are no longer considered to be legally authorized to even access the financial and health care information of their adult child.
To ensure parents can still have access to information and to be empowered to provide support should their child become incapacitated, powers of attorney are vital.
What happens if a college freshman does not have a power of attorney and something happens to incapacitate the student?
Parents would be powerless to make fundamental decisions and would need to petition a court with jurisdiction over the adult child before accessing medical and financial information, let alone making decisions on behalf of their child.
How do you help your college freshman set up a power of attorney?
Reach out to an experienced estate planning attorney, as state and federal laws can be nuanced.
Once you schedule an appointment, you will need to have a discussion with your adult child about who should be named as the power of attorney agent or agents.
For young adults, this is typically the parents.
A successor agent on the power of attorney should also be designated in case the first choice is unable to perform the responsibilities.
The chosen individual should be calm in crisis, trustworthy, and responsible.
Once these decisions are made, the attorney can draft the documents.
You will need an Advance Health Care Directive for medical matters and a General Durable Power of Attorney for finances.
In addition, we also recommend preparing a standalone HIPAA Release and an Anatomical Gift Declaration.
The Advance Health Care Directive itself consists of a Health Care Treatment Directive and a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare Decisions.
In our practice, we use the Health Care Treatment Directive in place of a statutory Living Will.
Depending on the assets owned by the newly-minted adult, a Last Will and Testament may be prudent to execute.
At a minimum, however, the his or her assets are likely rather straightforward and can be arranged to avoid probate simply by using beneficiary designations, pay on death, and transfer on death arrangements.
What about storing and sharing these documents once executed?
A waterproof, fireproof box at home tends to be a practical solution.
If documents are placed in a safety deposit box, they may be inaccessible when needed.
Be sure to share copies of the executed documents with all of the agents appointed in each document, as well as other relevant parties.
These parties include, but are not limited to their primary care doctor and important administrative offices at their University like the “voodoo clinic” (also known as the student health clinic), Bursar’s Office, and Registrar’s Office.
PDF versions of the documents are great, as they can be readily emailed.
In addition, make sure the legal documents are immediately effective without first requiring proof that your adult child is incapacitated.
For example, even if your adult child has full capacity, you may need to pay bills or tuition if he or she is out of the country.
If your adult child first must be declared incapacitated by a doctor prior to your taking action, then precious time could be lost.
Schedule an appointment, without delay, to help your adult child take care of these estate planning fundamentals.
Reference: U.S. News & World Report (July 21, 2022) “How to Set Up a Power of Attorney”