When your child prepares to head off to college, putting a power of attorney in place for them is likely the last thing on your mind. After all, they’re just about to test the waters of adulthood, of true independence, and there’s so much ahead to look forward to. It’s an exciting and emotional time.

So why is a power of attorney important now? With newfound independence, comes unexpected risks. If your child is over the age of 18, you no longer have legal authority to act on their behalf if they become incapacitated in any way. By having your child put a parent power of attorney in place, you can continue to protect your children and ensure their health care and financial needs are in good hands just in case.

Starting the Conversation

While this isn’t a typical conversation between a parent and child at this age, it’s an important one nonetheless. Approach the topic by explaining what a power of attorney is and how it works. Learning the facts and implications from someone they love and trust helps to keep the topic from being too overwhelming. It’s also a key to having an open discussion about their wishes and concerns. While you can’t force your child to sign the document, assure them that you will always act in their best interests, as you always have.

What is Included in a Power of Attorney?

Power of attorney documents related to health can be broad and often include:

  • Access to medical records
  • Whether to discharge from a hospital
  • When to withdraw life support
  • Organ and tissue donation instructions
  •  How to dispose of remains

You may also consider a financial power of attorney that would include access to any bank accounts, credit cards or leases in your child’s name as well as digital assets such as online financial accounts, social media and email.

A power of attorney can even extend to authorization to see grades and information from teachers. The bottom line is to customize the document in a manner in which both you and your child feel comfortable.

Creating a Power of Attorney

There are two options to create a power of attorney document. First, your state may provide a standard power of attorney form online that you can use to create the document yourself. The benefit of this approach is convenience, but keep in mind that your customization options may be limited. Here is a link to the ADVANCE HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVE FORM for the State of California. Check with your child’s college or university to confirm acceptability.

Second, you can work with a lawyer experienced in estate law. Seek out referrals and check to see if the lawyer will offer this as a standalone service. The cost and time involved may be more than with the do-it-yourself approach, but being able to rest assured that the document will cover your specific needs and will be executed properly is invaluable.

While you and your child are about to experience a new phase in life, adding a power of attorney to your college preparation list will offer peace of mind that will extend far beyond their time at school.


The FMB Advisors Blog

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