Packing for College: Three Legal Documents That Every Young Adult Needs

Sending a child off to college is a stressful time. You have the personal items covered (toothbrush, shower slippers, phone charger, laptop, bed sheets, etc)….these are just some of the important things you are sending your child off to school with this fall. But, what about some legal essentials that you have probably not considered?

If your child has reached the age of 18, you are no longer responsible for him. That may be great news for some parents, but that also means you cannot make decisions for your 18 year old anymore, whether that is medical or financial.

This is exactly why every 18 year old should have 3 documents in place before they venture out on their own.

  1. Financial Power of Attorney
  2. Healthcare Power of Attorney
  3. Healthcare Authorization.

Without these documents in place, a parent has no authority to make health care decisions or manage money for their child. This is troubling for some who are paying the tuition, have their children on their health insurance plans and continue to claim them as dependents on their tax returns.

If your child is in an accident and becomes disabled, even temporarily, you may need court approval to act on his or her behalf, which can be a costly and lengthy process. This risk is real. Accidents are the leading cause of death for young adults, and young adults between 18 and 25 years old are hospitalized with nonlethal injuries each year.

But it doesn’t take something nearly that drastic for parents to need to act on a child’s behalf. For example, if your child is ill and in the hospital, doctors will refuse to discuss his or her condition with you without the property healthcare documents.

These power of attorney documents can be effective upon your child’s incapacity or immediately, giving you access to their medical and financial information immediately. It will all depend on your child and what rights he or she would like to give to you as the agent. It is important to note that your child must give you this power, so if you have a strained relationship, your child may decide to give this power to another adult in their lives, like a grandmother or uncle. Also important is the fact that your child still maintains their independence and power even though they have also given you the power to act for them.
For example, if your child wants to give power to have access to his or her finances but not be able to access his grades, he can specifically restrict that right in the power of attorney documents. This document can be useful in a variety of situations, for example if your child is studying abroad you need to contact the local embassy or wire money from a child’s bank account, sign a lease in your child’s name, etc.

Have a discussion with your child and make sure you send them off to college this fall with these 3 most important items that will save you thousands of dollars down the line.

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