As summer comes to an end, kids are starting off for college loaded down with electronics, bedding, and books.  Most parents worry about how their child will do in school academically and socially, but beyond a few last-minute lectures on life and responsibility, few parents take any concrete action to help them help their kids.  Parents should consider urging their child to complete a durable power of attorney.

Why should your child sign a durable power of attorney?

Almost all college students are over 18, which means that they are legal adults in most states, and their parents can no longer act for them without the child’s permission.  By signing a durable power of attorney, and a health care directive, children can authorize their parents to help if the child is in an accident, becomes seriously ill, or otherwise needs help with handling some of life’s details.

Parents, not attorneys, need to talk to their children about a durable power of attorney, because it involves responsibility on the part of both parents and children.  It is not a license for a parent to keep tabs of a young adult’s grades and spending habits, but a serious, respectful acknowledgement that if that young adult becomes incapacitated, the parent will be able to step in and help out.  Parents have to respect the child’s privacy and both parents and children must establish a good flow of information so that parents don’t feel forced to help where their help is not wanted.

A durable power of attorney will generally avoid a parent having to go to court to gain guardianship of an incapacitated child – an expensive proposition.  The ability to handle a child’s finances can also ward off unexpected costs in the form of late payment penalties or other expenses for overdue bills.

Even if your child goes to school in a different state, a properly executed durable power of attorney should be respected in any other state.

A student’s durable power of attorney.

A durable power of attorney is a broad document that generally allows a designated person to act on behalf of the individual in just about any way that the individual could act themselves.  As broad as these documents may be, there are also special powers that should be included in a child’s durable power of attorney:

  • the ability to handle payments to the school, and to make sure that school loans, grants and any financial assistance all occur and are credited properly;
  • the ability to request a child’s school transcripts, including any dealings with the Department of Education;
  • the ability to request amounts a child may owe for tuition or rent, to transfer money into bank accounts, and to pay necessary school-related bills, rent, utility bills, and other life necessities;
  • the ability to communicate with school loan lenders; and
  • the ability to communicate with teachers.

Digital assets are an important, and often overlooked, asset that a parent may need to be able to access.  This is more than accessing an Instagram account, and can include on-line access to bank accounts, utility bills, school on-line portals, as well as Instagram and Facebook.

While most parents never have to rely on their child’s durable power of attorney, just like the rest of estate planning, durable powers of attorney help to cope with life’s unexpected events.

For more information on a durable power of attorney, please contact my office.

Essential Resource for College Students? A Durable Power of Attorney
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