Is Your Child Ready for College?

By Brian A. Boys

Dorm fridge?  Check.  Shower kit?  Check.  Laundry bag?  Check.  Advance Medical Directive? Hmmm.

If you are the parent whose child is preparing to go away to attend college this fall for the first time, you are probably enjoying your last summer with your child while also preparing for this child’s departure.  In between shopping for the dorm essentials and making sure your child is registered for classes, now is also the time to think about what legal implications this transition may involve.

You may not believe it and they may not always act like it, but at 18, children become adults in the eyes of the law.  This means that you are no longer able to make any decision for the person you fed, clothed, and housed for all of those years.  This also means that even though you may be making the tuition payments, you are unable to obtain your child’s grades or get information about your child from the administrative office at the college or university, unless the child first gives permission.  Worse yet, if your child becomes ill and is unable to make medical decisions, the child’s physician is unable to disclose your child’s medical condition to you and you are unable to assist in the treatment decision making process.

The solution to these problems is to have a lawyer prepare a power of attorney and advance medical directive for your adult child.  Through these documents, your child can designate you as his or her substitute decision maker for both financial and medical decisions.  It is also important that your child sign a waiver of his or her Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) privacy rights so that you can discuss your child’s medical situation with the treating physician.  Lastly, so long as these documents are being prepared, it may be worthwhile for your child to also sign a simple last will and testament.

Many people have the mistaken belief that estate planning is only for “older” people.  The reality is that individuals of all ages and stages of life need to ensure that they have at least the basic estate planning documents in place.  One hopes that there will never be a need to use a child’s power of attorney or advance medical directive, but if that situation occurs, then you will certainly be glad that these documents are in place.  For more information, check out the Estate Planning section of Oast & Taylor’s website or contact Oast & Taylor to schedule an appointment to speak with one of our attorneys.