graduation cap and key

If you are about to send a child off to college or to a gap-year program, you’re probably busy with last-minute shopping, packing and worrying about roommates. Here’s one more thing you should do as you prepare for the big separation: Ask this young adult to sign a durable power of attorney and a health care proxy.

If you have kids going off to college this year, you may need to add an extra item or two to that back-to-school list. And no, you can’t get these two things at your local Target store.

Recently, Forbes published an article titled Two Documents Every 18-Year-Old Should Sign.As is clear from the title, before parents send their children off to college for the first time, they need to make sure their college students have certain legal plans in place in case of an emergency. The article provides some thought-provoking examples of what can happen if these documents are not signed.

So, what are these two key legal documents? The General Durable Power of Attorney and the Health Care Power of Attorney.

Typically, these two documents come as standard issue with any comprehensive estate plan. College students need them because, if an accident should occur, then parents are not automatically given the ability to handle their child’s finances or make their medical decisions. Even if the student is still entirely dependent on the parent, once the student turns 18 the parents cannot legally deal with the child’s needs in an emergency … without the child having signed the necessary paperwork ahead of time.

A General Durable Power of Attorney gives someone the ability to handle financial matters for a person who is incapacitated. Thus, if your child has an accident, you can still make sure rent and other bills are paid. A Health Care Power of Attorney gives you the ability to make medical decisions for your child if he or she is currently unable to do so. In the event of an emergency, parents can tell doctors how to treat their injured children.

Getting these two documents is easy. Likely, a quick visit to an estate planning attorney will do the trick. In all probability, these documents will not be necessary while your children are away at college. However, if your child is in an accident or gets ill, then you will be very glad these two estate planning documents were executed beforehand.

Reference: Forbes (August 15, 2014) Two Documents Every 18-Year-Old Should Sign

Mr. Amoruso concentrates his practice on Elder Law, Comprehensive Estate Planning, Asset Preservation, Estate Administration and Guardianship.