When most people think about estate planning tools such as power of attorney, they imagine that they are solely for people who already have children, who have significant assets, or who are nearing the end of their lives. However, you may be surprised to know that many estate planning lawyers also recommend that college students have a healthcare proxy and power of attorney in place for both their healthcare and their finances. While your college-aged child may not require other aspects of a full estate plan, these power of attorney documents could nevertheless be vital.
This is because once your child turns 18, they become a legal adult. As such, you will no longer be able to have direct control over their healthcare and financial decisions because they will no longer be under your immediate care. Nevertheless, as young people finding their way in the world, it may be important that they have someone they can trust who can make decisions in their best interests if that should become necessary.
A healthcare proxy is a document that enables someone (the agent) to handle healthcare decisions on behalf of another person (the principal) in the event that the principal becomes incapable of making such decisions on their own. The agent will also be able to access the principal’s medical records and communicate with their healthcare providers.
It’s important to remember that a healthcare proxy for healthcare can cover any medical situation, not just decisions that need to be made toward the end of life. Thus, if your college-aged child were to lose consciousness due to a disease or a debilitating accident, a healthcare proxy would allow you to make healthcare decisions in their best interest. Similarly, if they were to experience a mental health emergency and a medical professional deemed them temporarily incapacitated, the healthcare proxy would permit you to commit them for the evaluation and treatment they require.
Power of Attorney for Finances
Similar to the healthcare proxy, a power of attorney for finances allows you as the agent to make financial decisions on behalf of your adult child. In the event that they become incapacitated in some way, this document will empower you to sell property, pay bills, and settle debt on behalf of the principal.
Even though college students do not tend to have high levels of wealth, a power of attorney for finances can be helpful, nonetheless. It can allow you as their agent to access the information you need to take care of credit card accounts, apartment leases, and even online accounts for their school, banking, email, and social media.
Speak to an Estate Planning Attorney
Of course, it isn’t possible to force your college-aged child to sign a power of attorney but having a conversation with them about the importance of having one can be helpful. Hypothetical worst-case scenarios may not be a pleasant topic for a young person just starting out on their own, but an experienced estate planning lawyer can help you structure the conversation in a way that will help your college-age student understand why a power of attorney may be in their best interests.
If you have further questions about creating a healthcare proxy or power of attorney for your young adult or regarding estate planning in general, we are here to provide clarity and guidance.
This article is a service of Miller & Miller Law Group.