By Richard M. Morgan
Fellow, The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC)
Morgan & DiSalvo, P.C.

Each year, more than 250,000 parents of young adults between 18 and 25 receive the dreaded call that their young adult has been injured and is in the hospital. Parents of college students who are miles or even a continent away can feel particularly helpless when they receive the call. However, having two important legal documents in place can make this worrisome situation a bit easier to handle.

Your student should execute an Advance Directive for Health Care (ADHC) to ensure that healthcare providers, legally bound to protect their patient’s privacy, will be able to discuss your student’s care with you. The ADHC gives the designee, usually a parent, access to the student’s medical information and the right to make health care decisions for the student. This power can be invaluable if your student is involved in a serious car accident or requires hospitalization.

Ideally, your student should also execute a second document: A Durable General Power of Attorney (POA) is as important as an Advance Directive for Health Care, but for different reasons. The POA allows a family member, friend or adviser to serve as a financial and legal decision-maker on a student’s behalf. A POA can last for a student’s college career or a lifetime, until another agreement replaces the original one, or when a life-changing situation occurs. However, we recommend periodic reviews and updates about every three (3) years or so for both POAs and ADHCs.

A POA can be critical if the named party needs to manage the student’s bank accounts, file tax returns, or handle citizenship responsibilities, such as responding to a jury summons, or renewing a car registration. In addition, if your student is vacationing or working out of state or abroad for the summer and needs to sign an apartment lease for the fall, the POA should allow the agent to execute that agreement.

In addition, be aware that the agreement between a student and the college or university he or she attends is a private relationship – regardless of who is paying tuition and fees. Many colleges and universities will not disclose grades or transcripts to anyone other than the student without the student’s approval. Having a POA in place may allow the agent to easily access the student’s transcript.

Keep in mind that both an initial and at least one successor agent should be specified on each document in case the original designee is unwilling or unavailable to serve.

ADHC and POA forms vary by state and some must be witnessed and notarized. Ideally, these documents should be prepared and executed with the help of an attorney, especially the POA. However, where cost is an issue, you may wish to utilize and properly execute free statutory state law forms for this purpose.

Because third parties, such as financial institutions, may be uncomfortable accepting a POA or ADHC type document created outside their state, it may be beneficial to create similar documents for both the state where the student is attending college and for the student’s home state.

If we can assist you in executing these important documents or share our expertise with you, please call us today to set up an appointment – 678.720.0750.

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