Does Your College Student Need a Power of Attorney?
By Jennifer Simons, Esq.
It is hard to believe that the summer is soon coming to an end. The television commercials are already reminding parents that it is time to start shopping for “Back to School” items. For some parents, this will be the first time that a child is leaving home to begin college. When planning for a child to go away to college, whether for the first time, or if they are heading back to college, there is certain to be a list of items which you want to make sure are included when packing for your child’s departure. One item that most parents probably neglect to think about is a Power of Attorney for your child. However, this can be one of the most essential and important items for your child to have with them, especially while they are away at school.
While most parents still consider their college student to be a “child”, if your child is 18 years of age, they are legally considered to be an adult in Pennsylvania, and therefore capable of making their own decisions. Many parents may be surprised when their child turns 18, and they are suddenly informed by the child’s physician that he may no longer provide the parent with the child’s private medical information or permit the parent to make healthcare decisions on behalf of the child. While this can initially be frustrating and confusing for parents, imagine being told this by a doctor on the telephone, while your adult child is away at college, and is ill or has had an accident. An easy way to prevent this situation from happening is to have your adult child appoint an Agent to make healthcare decisions for him/her through a Healthcare Power of Attorney document. As long as the child is 18 years old and has the capacity to execute a Power of Attorney, the adult child may appoint his/her parents as his Agents. The parent would then have the legal authority to obtain healthcare information and make medical decisions on behalf of the adult child, if they are unable to do so on their own.
It may be wise for the adult child to also execute a Financial Power of Attorney. This document is similar to a Healthcare Power of Attorney, except that it allows an Agent to make financial decisions or handle financial transactions on behalf of the adult child, if they are unable to do so on their own. It is possible to have a combined Financial and Medical Power of Attorney in one document if the Agents will the same for both medical and financial decisions. A Financial Power of Attorney can be helpful if the adult child needs a parent to access his/her bank accounts or pay any bills on behalf of the adult child while they are away at school or if they cannot do so on their own for any reason.
You should explain to your adult child why a Power of Attorney document is important and that it will allow you to talk to doctors and make medical decisions for them if they are sick or hurt in an accident. The Power of Attorney document may always be revoked if your child chooses to do so, and they can also do a new Power of Attorney if they get married or wish to name a different individual as their Agent in the future. If your son or daughter would like to create a Power of Attorney or has any questions in regard to a Power of Attorney, please contact McAndrews, Mehalick, Connolly, Hulse and Ryan, P.C. at 610-648-9300 or click here to contact us and ask to speak with one of our Estate Planning Attorneys.