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My Child is Going Off to College. Why Do They Need a Power of Attorney for Financial, and for Healthcare, and a Directive to Physicians?

Picture this... Your child is graduating from high school and has already been accepted to their dream (or maybe safe) school.  You are now in the process of making a list of all of the things you think your child will need during their first year of college.  Your list is almost complete when a thought pops into your head: "My baby is now an adult." ... pause... "Now that they are an adult, do they need their own legal documents?"  You try to shrug the thought away because you are the parent and they are still on your insurance plan, but the thought is keeping you up late into the night.


What happens when your child turns 18?  Who can make legal or healthcare decisions on their behalf?  Is it still the parent?  The answer is, it depends. It depends whether or not the parent is given power of attorney, because once a minor reaches the age of majority (18 years old), a parent no longer has authority to make financial, legal, or healthcare (even if the child is still on the parents' insurance) decisions, at least not without prior authorization or a court order.

Durable General Power of Attorney: This document states whom your child chooses to make financial or legal decisions on their behalf, such as paying bills or filing a tax return.


Power of Attorney for Health Care: This document states whom your child chooses to make medical decisions on their behalf if they are unable to do so.  The person named in the document will be the person the doctors can speak with regarding health and treatment options.  This document also authorizes the agent to make end-of-life decisions in conjunction with the Directive to Physicians.


Directive to Physicians: This document, also known as a Living Will, states what your child's wishes are regarding end-of-life decisions.


HIPAA Authorization:  This document allows medical professionals to discuss your child's medical issues with the individuals listed on the document. 

These four documents are commonly referred to as "Incapacity" or "Disability" documents, and all individuals over 18 years of age should have these documents prepared.  In the event your child does not have Powers of Attorney in place and they become incapacitated, you, as the parent, may have to seek a court-appointed guardianship.  A guardianship is a legal process in which an individual petitions the court to allow them to make financial and non-financial decisions on behalf of the incapacitated individual.  Heard about a guardianship? Those can start at $10,000 to establish.  The cost of a Guardianship is not a cost-efficient method to make decisions on a child's behalf.  Instead, add "Get Incapacity Documents" to your child's "Off to College Checklist."


If you want to learn more or have questions about Incapacity or Disability documents, please contact Rehberg Law Group at 206.246.8772.

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