Two Documents Your 18 year-old Need to Have Before Going off to College

We usually don’t think about our children needing to sign legal documents. But before you send your child off to college, there are two legal documents that you need to make sure they have.  The documents are a:

  1. Medical Power of Attorney, and

  2. Financial Power of Attorney

It may come as a surprise to parents and children alike that a parent needs to have legal authority to act for their child, but an 18 year old is a legal adult.  If a parent is to be the child’s backup for medical and financial decisions these 2 documents need to be signed as soon as the “child” turns 18. Without these 2 documents  parents do not have the authority to make health care decisions, make financial decisions or manage money for their children after they turn 18.  This is true even if they are paying their child’s college tuition, still have their child on their health insurance and claim them as a dependent on their tax returns.

Medical Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions

A Medical Power of Attorney authorizes a parent to make medical and health care decisions on behalf of their young adult and to receive medical information.   If a young adult is ill, in an accident or otherwise becomes incapacitated, even for a short time,  a medical power of attorney is imperative.  Without this written authority to act a parent will need to go to court to be named guardian to act on his or her child’s behalf.

There are many horror stories about friends and colleagues who find this out the hard way.

For example, one young woman in her first year in college went to the school clinic for an allergy checkup, and it was discovered that she had a certain type of cancer.  When the parents called to talk to the doctor, they were not allowed information regarding their child’s condition because she was over 18 and they were not legally appointed her medical power of attorney.  A lot of anxiety could have been avoided if the young woman had signed the medical power of attorney before leaving home.

Financial Power of Attorney

A Financial Power of Attorney is effective when a person is incapacitated,  unavailable and unable to make their own financial  decisions.   Not only can an agent under a financial power of attorney make financial  decisions during incapacitated, but  also negotiate contracts or leases if the child is out of the country.

Moral of the StoryGet your child to sign those documents so you don’t have to worry about it!