Establishing Power of Attorney for Your Child Going to College

Your child is going off to college and it’s time to celebrate this important family milestone. This is a time of great change for both you and your student. Throughout college, your child will assume more responsibility for their day-to-day life, make more financial decisions, and mature into a young adult.

According to the law, an adult’s legal rights and responsibilities begin at age 18. Specifically, under federal HIPPA laws, all adults have the right to medical privacy. This means once your child turns 18, you no longer have the right to receive their medical information or make medical decisions on behalf of your adult child. Without proper estate planning, including creating a durable power of attorney and medical durable power of attorney, you may have trouble helping your student in an emergency.

Why Does Your College Student Need a Durable Power of Attorney?

Students heading to college may still feel like their parents have control over their financial decisions, especially if the parent is paying for educational costs and living expenses. However, once the student turns 18, the legal relationship changes, and parents no longer have certain rights and responsibilities regarding the adult child.

Talk with your student about planning for their time in college, and beyond, before they head off to school. Consider creating and signing a durable power of attorney for finances that would allow you to:

  • Pay your student’s medical bills and handle insurance claims in case of a medical emergency,

  • Pay rent or cancel a rental agreement,

  • File tax returns,

  • Apply for and receive government benefits,

  • Pay credit card bills, utilities, and other outstanding debts, and

  • Access and manage the student’s financial accounts if they are unable.

Without a clear directive, you may need probate court approval to manage your student’s finances after an accident or illness. If your student is attending college in another state, probate court matters become even more complicated.

What is a Medical Durable Power of Attorney and Why Should Your Student Have One?

Depending on the state where you live and where your student attends college, a Medical Durable Power of Attorney (POA) may also be called a Health Care Directive for College Students, a Healthcare Proxy, or a Medical Directive for College Students. It’s crucial to discuss why your student needs a medical POA for college student protection before they leave for school.

If you are not named as your child’s medical durable power of attorney and they are involved in an accident or become ill, you have no right to:

  • Review their medical records,

  • Speak with the medical providers, or

  • Make medical decisions on behalf of your child without court approval.

In an emergency, without a legal medical directive for college students appointing you as your adult child’s POA, the doctors will make all medical decisions for your child. You cannot even pay your child’s medical bills without a valid durable power of attorney.

Other Important Planning Documents a Student Should Consider

According to the federal HIPPA laws, medical providers and facilities cannot legally release an adult student’s medical information to anyone other than the student. This restriction includes the student’s parents. Doctors cannot speak to an adult student’s parents, and without the right legal planning, a parent might need a probate court order to look at their adult child’s records.

To avoid these problems, adult children should consider signing a simple HIPPA Release for College Students to allow full disclosure of their medical records to named people, such as parents, in situations when the student is unable to give permission.

Also, depending on the student’s unique circumstances, a Will, Trust, or Living Will could be appropriate to avoid uncertainty in case of a serious illness or a tragic accident. One of our durable power of attorney lawyers at Baron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras, P.C. can explain which estate planning documents may be appropriate for your unique family situation. It is critical that you work with an experienced estate planning attorney for your college student, as the provisions in these documents can differ from general power of attorneys.

When to Plan For Your College Student’s Future

The best time to plan for your new graduate’s future is before they leave for college and turn 18. These discussions are not easy, but they are crucial to address legal responsibilities and protect your adult child before an emergency arises.

Once the documents are properly executed, your student should bring copies to college and you should keep the originals in a safe place. If possible, also file the durable power of attorney with Student Records and the medical POA with the college’s medical provider. A roommate or other trusted student should also know where to find the directives in case of an emergency.

Trust Our Experienced Michigan Estate Planning Attorneys to Protect Your College Student

The attorneys at Barron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras, P.C., have been providing a full range of estate planning services for more than 40 years. We can create a durable power of attorney, medical POA for college student use, HIPPA Release, and more to meet your college student’s unique needs. During this potentially stressful time of life, let us help create peace of mind for you and your child.

We serve clients in Oakland County and beyond and our clients depend on our commitment, experience, and credentials when they trust us with their legal needs. Call us at 248-641-7070 or use our simple online form to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys today.
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