August 2, 2018
Hate to say it, but August is the beginning of the end of summer! It is an exciting time for the college kids in your life, especially for the new High School graduates heading off to college for their freshman year. In all the lists of things needed to move in to that dorm and tackle college successfully, there is rarely a suggestion to execute a Power of Attorney prior to leaving home. Most parents do not feel as if their college age children are independent from them yet. Mom and Dad are often paying tuition and all the costs associated with living away from home. Your child is still calling and texting on a regular basis asking for advice on everything from what to eat for dinner, how to have that difficult conversation with a roommate, to writing the first college paper and yes, asking for money!
THEY DON’T SEEM LIKE ADULTS YET
However, if your child is 18, he or she is a legal adult. The fact that you are his or her parent no longer grants you the legal right to assist your child or intervene on his or her behalf. Once someone is an adult the law says she or he can designate who they want to act for them if they are unable to act for themselves and the law does not presume it would be a parent. Therefore, having your child execute a Durable Power of Attorney (POA) once they turn 18 should be on every parent’s to do list. By having a POA from your child, you can access their bank accounts and tax returns, pay bills for them, access tuition statements and financial aid accounts, sign tax returns and be provided information from their college. Most importantly though, if included in the Power of Attorney, you can obtain health information that would otherwise be prevented by HIPAA laws. This last item is the one that most parents are not aware of but causes the most distress. If your adult child is injured or sick and unable to provide instructions to contact you or to share health information with you, hospital and medical professionals are not legally allowed to inform you of their condition or situation.
POWER OF ATTORNEY GIVES YOU PEACE OF MIND
For many parents and children, the peace of mind garnered by having a POA is invaluable, especially knowing you can assist in a health-related emergency. As parents, the young adult years mean you are still involved in your children’s lives and a POA merely acknowledges that you are still available and ready to help them as needed. The estate planning attorneys at Phelan, Frantz & Peek can assist in understanding and preparing the necessary documents, such as the POA, to help parents and their young adult children as they move through this exciting next phase of life.