Have A Child Heading To College This Fall? Here Are 3 Reasons Why You Need Power Of Attorney Before They Go.

Aug 24, 2023 | Estate Planning

If you are a parent or guardian of a student heading to college soon, you’re probably experiencing a whirlwind of emotions at the thought of your baby bird leaving the nest and struggling to complete your long to-do list by the move-in date. While your teen may be reveling in their upcoming adventure and the freedom it brings, it is possible that you spend a significant portion of your time stressing about all of the things that could happen when they’re no longer in your care. These feelings may be amplified if your student will be going to school hundreds or thousands of miles away. Even though they are legally considered adults, every parent knows that you never stop worrying about your child. A power of attorney may be a way for you to get peace of mind before sending your college student off this fall. 

Despite what you might have been told, power of attorney is not just for the elderly or those who are incapacitated. A power of attorney, or POA, is an essential legal tool that allows a trusted individual to look out for the best interests of someone they care about when they need it most. If you are a parent or guardian of a student who will be heading to college soon, having them sign a POA document should be as high on your to-do list as shopping for shower shoes or bed sheets. In this blog, we will provide an overview of what POA is and how it works, as well as the three most important reasons why you should establish it before your child heads off into the world. 

What Is Power Of Attorney?

Power of attorney is a legal order that gives someone the ability to act on behalf of another person. Within the agreement, the person granting authorization is referred to as the principal, while the person making decisions for them is referred to as the agent. There are different types of POA that can specify what types of tasks the agent is able to complete for the principal, as well as how long they are able to do so. Some examples include:

  • Health Care POA – also referred to as a health care proxy, this authorizes the agent to make healthcare and medical decisions for the principal, as well as access those records.
  • Financial POA – this authorizes the agent to manage financial affairs on behalf of the principal, such as those relating to bank accounts and other monetary aspects. The agent may be able to sign checks, make deposits and withdrawals, file tax returns, handle matters relating to Social Security, and more.
  • General POA – this authorizes the agent to act on behalf of the principal in all matters as  specified by state law. 
  • Limited POA – this authorizes the agent to act on behalf of the principal for a specific amount of time, in specific matters or events, such as the sale of a piece of property or the management of an investment account.
  • Durable POA – this authorizes the agent to act on behalf of the principal in the specific way that is outlined in the agreement, and remains in effect even if the principal should become incapacitated. 

Reason #1: Healthcare And Medical Elements

At the very least, you should become a healthcare proxy for your child before they leave for college by having them sign a health care POA. Because they are legally considered an adult, you do not have the right to handle their medical affairs. If your child is involved in any type of accident or falls victim to a medical episode, you will not be authorized to have access to their medical records, speak to doctors or the hospital, or make any healthcare decisions on their behalf. The doctors and other healthcare professionals will be the ones making all of the decisions for your child. 

This situation is heartbreaking for parents, especially when they are far away from their child and cannot get to them. It is not in your best interest to wait until POA is needed, because then it is too late. It is wise to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to iron out the details before your child leaves for college. 

Reason #2: Legal And Financial Elements (social media)

Another important reason for you to have power of attorney for your child is so that you can handle any necessary legal and financial affairs for them. You would be able to make financial decisions for them, which may include moving money in and out of their bank accounts and signing and depositing checks on their behalf. 

In addition, you will be able to act on their behalf in any legal situation. For example, if your child’s vehicle registration needed to be renewed, you could step in to help them out so that they don’t have to make an expensive trip back home and miss classes that could jeopardize their academic record. 

Finally, an aspect that many parents rarely consider – but is incredibly important in today’s age – is the possibility that they may need to access their child’s cell phone records or social media accounts. There are many scenarios in which it might be crucial for you to obtain these records, especially if law enforcement or campus police become involved. Having POA would make it much easier for you to do so. 

Reason #3: Academic Elements

Having a POA would also eliminate legal barriers that keep you in the dark when it comes to your child’s performance in college. While it does seem unfair, even if you are paying for their tuition, you do not have a right to their grades and other academic records! This is due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA. You can work with your estate planning attorney to ensure that the language in the POA you and your child sign includes educational aspects.

Call Daly Law Offices For Personalized Service

Still have questions about power of attorney and how it can impact you and your college-bound child? Contact our firm to schedule your free consultation and let our lead attorney, Joshua N. Daly, guide you to the right solution. He has over 15 years of experience and is well-practiced in estate planning law and powers of attorney. Don’t wait, call today!

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