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Legal Documents for Your College-Age Student

Parents, you need to think about having an attorney prepare two simple legal documents for your college-age student. One is a Power of Attorney. The other is a Health Care Proxy. These documents can be invaluable if your child has a medical emergency. We have all heard of cases where a college student gets severely injured. Did you ever wonder who is going to make the necessary decisions for the injured person? Consider that your college-age child is now an adult. Consequently, you may not be able automatically to make decisions for your college-age child. Some states have surrogate decision making statutes. In New York, the statute allows a patient’s parent, other family member or even a close friend to make health care decisions for the patient. The statute applies only where the patient lacks capacity to make such decisions AND did not previously appoint a health care agent. But not all states have such statutes, and, even when a statute exists, there can be issues of which family member will serve as the surrogate decision maker. In states where there is no such statute, the absence of these legal documents can lead to unforeseen and unwanted outcomes and problems.

Start with the premise that, as legal adults, your college-age children can actually prevent you from seeing their financial and/or medical records. For parents, this news may come as a surprise. But, the truth is you have no legal right to access your college-age student’s medical records. That means you have no legal right to find out what medical choices they have made, what medications they are taking, what treatment and/or counseling they will get or what procedures they have undergone. In fact, you can’t even see, or have any access to, their medical records. Technically, their treating doctors should not even speak to you. So, what can we do to help you ask? Call us to prepare a Health Care Proxy for your college-age child to sign.

The Health Care Proxy is a crisis document. It is limited to medical matters and can only be used when there is an incapacity. In other words, it only becomes effective when your child is unable to make decisions on his/her own. So, if your child needs important decisions made while they are unconscious or in a coma, the Health Care Proxy lets you make the important decisions regarding what medical care is provided.

In addition to being unable to make medical decisions without a Health Care Proxy, you can’t make financial decisions for your college-age child without a Power of Attorney. A properly signed POA can help in a myriad of circumstances including financial and medical. The POA allows you to conduct banking transactions for your student. You can also make investments. Is your student involved in an insurance matter? The POA can help with that too. The POA can be used for securing government benefits. It also allows you to deal with medical billing, payments and records. You can even file tax returns for your student. Is your college-age child studying abroad or traveling overseas? The POA can help there too. Of course, the POA is not unlimited. Everything you do while using that POA needs to be done for the benefit of the person who appointed you. Unlike the Health Care Proxy, the POA is effective immediately. No need to wait for an emergency. This immediate effectiveness makes the POA a powerful tool to help your college-age child. In short, the POA can be used as a matter of convenience from simple banking transactions to more complex financial matters, and a lot of matters in between.

While you hope to never need to use these documents, it is best to be prepared in case something goes awry while your child is away at college. Be safe. Be smart. Be prepared. Schedule an appointment with us to make sure you have the right legal documents for your college-age student.

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