The “to-do” list for sending a child off to college might seem virtually endless—registration, shopping, dorm decorating, goodbyes (sniff, sniff). Probably the last thing on any parent’s mind before releasing their son or daughter into the world on their own is obtaining a durable power of attorney (DPOA) and health care directive (HCD) for them. Despite how commonly it is overlooked, these two estate planning documents are something that everyone over the age of 18 should discuss with their parents and an estate planning attorney before leaving for school.
The beginning of college typically coincides with the time that a child becomes an adult in the eyes of the law. What this means for the parents is that they will no longer be able to obtain information about their child’s medical condition in the event of an accident or illness. Parents essentially lose the right to make decisions on behalf of their child. This turn of events makes it vitally important to have a health care directive in place for your child as soon as he or she turns 18.
Although your college-bound child has likely attained the age of “legal” adulthood, it is unlikely that they have attained financial independence. A DPOA will allow parents to manage money for their child while they are away at college, simplifying financial emergencies.
More importantly, a DPOA and HCD grant parents the authority to make important medical decisions on behalf of their child. Although this power would only need to be exercised in a worst-case scenario, the risk of your child not having obtained these documents is real.
Approximately 250,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 are hospitalized each year due to non-lethal injuries. Worse yet, accidents are the leading cause of death among young adults.1 Parents without the necessary documents in place will likely need to wait for court approval before acting on their child’s behalf in the event the child becomes disabled or due to an accident or illness, even temporarily.
Although obtaining these important legal documents for your child among the college prep chaos is not something that immediately comes to mind, it is certainly one situation where you are better safe than sorry.