Summer may be at its height, but I’ve started to notice the back-to-school displays creeping back into stores. As students head off to college, along with their books and laptops, there’s something many of them are missing: health care powers of attorney and powers of attorney for financial matters.
Many parents do not realize that when their children turn 18, they no longer have access to their medical and financial records. I spoke to a client once just after she had returned from college orientation with her daughter. Much to her shock, the university had informed all the parents that, without proper legal documentation, the school would not be able to share grades or medical information with parents.
So when would a power of attorney be necessary?
- If a child has an accident or a health emergency, such as a serious case of the flu, a health care power of attorney can give a parent access to the child’s medical information. Without the health care power of attorney, doctors cannot release medical information to parents of a child who is 18 or over.
- If a child has gone to college in another state or has joined the military, a parent will need a power of attorney to access and manage the child’s bank accounts and other financial information.
- A power of attorney can give a parent access to a child’s grades. Without the child’s permission, even if they are paying tuition a parent does not have access to a child’s school records.
In addition to providing a parent with peace of mind, setting up powers of attorney can also assure a child going out on their own that their parents will still be there to support and help them, just as they always have. Powers of attorney can be drafted up quickly and affordably. It may not be the most exciting gift, but it might be the most useful one your child ever receives.