Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy for College Students

This is the time of the year when families send their children off to college. Oftentimes, these kids would study in a college that is located in another state.  If you have a child who has turned 18, you should consider preparing a power of attorney and a health care proxy for her. 

As parents, you may have been caring for your children for many years, but once they turn 18, you no longer have control over their legal affairs or make health care decisions for them in many states.  A typical scenario is when a child gets into a serious accident, a parent would not be able health care decisions for the child any more because the child is now an adult.  In fact, doctors or other health care professionals may even refuse to discuss about your child's medical conditions with you under privacy laws.  

A health care proxy (also known as a health care power of attorney or living will) prepared in advance would authorize a parent to make important health care decisions on behalf of a sick or injured child.  

These concerns are real.  According to statistics, automobile accidents remain a major cause of injuries and hospitalization for young adults and college students.  In addition to health care decisions, if your child becomes disabled temporarily due to illness or injuries, he would also need somebody to take care of his business and personal affairs such as registering a car, withdrawing money from the bank, handling his rental lease, etc. A power of attorney would allow another adult such as a parent, a relative, or a close friend to act as an agent for the disabled child under these circumstances.  

There two types of powers of attorney. A durable power of attorney becomes effective and continues to be effective even after the principal (the person drafting the document) has lost capacity.  

A springing power of attorney takes effect only when the principal's legal capacity has diminished.  One disadvantage of this type of power of attorney is that it may take time to verify that the principal has lost his capacity.

Although a parent typically pays for a child's college tuition, it doesn't mean that the parent would be able to find out about the grades of the student, the attendance record in school, disciplinary matters, etc.  A properly drafted power of attorney would allow the parent to gain access to such information when necessary.  

Finally, exchange study programs and other overseas learning opportunities mean that it is likely that your child may end up spending spend some time abroad.  The rules and regulations in foreign countries vary and can be quite different from the U.S.  A power of attorney and health care proxy would be even more important to protect your child's rights and interests should something happen overseas.


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