Does my 18 year old really need a POA before going off to college?

Yes. Your 18 year old child is now a legal adult which means that you no longer have the authority to make decisions on his (or her) behalf or obtain personal information about his financial and medical affairs. After 18 years of caring for your child and making all of their major decisions, this change can be difficult to navigate, such as in the scenarios below:


Scenario 1: Your child's college roommate calls to let you know your son was injured and admitted to the hospital. You call the hospital to speak with the attending physician and he refuses because your son is 18 and you do not have legal authority. Your son is a 6 hour flight away and you just want to know what's going on.


Scenario 2: Your daughter is studying abroad in Spain and her credit card bill is past due. It's the credit card she is using while abroad so you immediately call the credit card company to resolve the late bill (after all, you're the one actually paying the bill), but they refuse because your daughter is 18 and you do not have legal authority. After 30 minutes of back-and-forth on the phone trying to prevent any additional late fees, you finally give up. She'll have to call the company herself.


Before "leaving the nest", your 18 year old should have the following documents in place:


1. Medical and Durable Power of Attorney

This document allows you to advocate for him if he becomes ill, disabled or incapacitated, or just wants you to be able to communicate with and obtain information from medical personnel (including the university's health center or the attending physician in the example above) about his medical care, and make medical treatment decisions for him.


2. General and Durable Power of Attorney

This document allows you to advocate for him and communicate with and obtain information from banks and other financial institutions, the university's bursar's office, loan servicers, and assist with paying any bills or expenses he may have (i.e. rent, car payments, study abroad costs, etc.).


3. Living Will

No parent wants to think about this document for their child, but unfortunately, it is too important to skip. This end-of-life document allows your adult child to direct whether or not he wants life-sustaining treatment if he becomes terminally ill or permanently unconscious and there is no chance of significant recovery. This is his opportunity to decide now.


4. Last Will and Testament

This document is primarily used to direct where your child's assets should go if he should pass away and who should oversee the administration of his estate. This document is listed last as it is the least important for your 18 year old, unless he has significant assets in his own name or will be receiving significant assets soon (i.e. by inheritance, trust, settlement, etc.) If he does have or will soon have significant assets, it is advisable to put this document in place as soon along with the documents listed above.


We are happy to assist your child in preparing and executing these documents before "leaving the nest" and setting off on the next big adventure. To schedule an appointment, please call 267-625-8877 or book online at bartonestatelaw.com/practiceareas.

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