Why College Students Need Their Own Health Care Documents and Power of Attorneys

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If you’re one of those who is spending the summer gathering up supplies for your college-bound child – or even the concerned parent of any over-18-year-old — then there’s a little know but necessary step you need to take. In order to ensure yourself peace of mind and the ability to act in their best interest should the need arise, you need to have a durable power of attorney and a health care proxy for your child.

We take our ability to speak on behalf of our children for granted, as for their entire lives we have acted on their behalf and have been able to get whatever information we need about them. But from the day that your child turns 18, unless you have these two forms in place you run the risk of being helpless in a medical emergency, unable to get the most basic information about their condition or to make decisions on their behalf due to privacy laws.  By having them sign a durable power of attorney and a health care proxy, you are able to make sure that you have the authority to make essential health care decisions on their behalf, and financial decisions too.

It may sound funny, but it does not matter to the various agencies and facilities involved that you are paying tuition, are claiming your child as a dependent on your taxes (and paying their taxes), are paying for their health insurance or are in any other way still supporting them and largely in charge of their lives. If the worst happens and your child falls ill or is involved in an accident, without having these two forms in hand you run the risk of needing to go to court in order to act for or speak for your child, or even to get information about their condition.

A health care proxy specifically deals with medical decisions, while a durable power of attorney appoints a person to act on the signor’s behalf in matters that are either financial or legal. We tend to think about these documents in terms of older adults, and that’s natural –  especially because as parents we have always unquestionably been involved in our kids’ important decisions –  but it is important for every adult to designate a person who is going to be responsible for them, and particularly for single adults.

When speaking with your child about signing these papers, you may find that they question the need for signature: this is particularly true if they feel that they should be independent now that they have reached the age of majority. If this is the case, you can specify that the forms have what is known as “springing power” – this means that they are only activated by a specific event such as an emergency.

For more information on these two documents and the consequences of not having them, or to have them prepared for signature, contact the law firm of Bratton Scott Attorneys at Law. We are here to help provide you with peace of mind.