Add this important legal document to your back-to-school to-do list
So your child is moving away to go to college. There’s a little more room in the house, but often far more worries about him. Your child, who you have lovingly cared for and protected, is about to go his own way for possibly the first time in his life. He gets to make his own choices and his own mistakes without the luxury of having mom and dad to help clean up the mess. Most college-age children are quite immature and incapable of taking care of all of life’s issues that creep up.
Your child is legally an adult once he turns 18 years old, and your parental blanket of authority and protection does not embrace him anymore. Should your child get into legal or financial trouble at home or when away at school, he will have to take time away from classes to deal with these troubles: unless someone is designated as his power of attorney.
What is a power of attorney?
As you pack up the car and get him on his way, it’s a good idea to stop by your local estate planning attorney as well. Powers of attorney are legal documents that empower a designated representative (called the attorney-in-fact) to act on behalf of the person for whom the power of attorney is written.
A financial power of attorney allows the attorney-in-fact take care of all the legal, financial, and business issues that may arise. A health care power of attorney allows the attorney-in-fact to make medical decisions for someone who may be too sick or disabled to make medical decisions on their own.
While it seems unlikely that any complex legal issues will come up, the power of attorney is very useful. Jury demands, vehicle registration, banking issues, lost debit cards, renewing a passport, traffic tickets, car accidents, and other routine legal matters are all tasks that a designated attorney-in-fact can manage on behalf of someone else.
And more importantly, if your child gets sick or seriously injured, having a medical power of attorney in place eliminates any questions as to who can make health decisions for your child should he or she be unable to do so.
Getting your college-bound child on his way can be a stressful time, whether he is moving around the block or thousands of miles away. While packing the new school and dorm room supplies, make sure you consider talking to an estate planning attorney to get financial and medical powers of attorney for your child.