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The College Bound and the Power of Attorney: An Essential Back-to-School Checklist Item

by | Aug 31, 2023 | Child custody, Family law, Financial, Probate Law, Wills

The slow dance of summer’s golden evenings, with fireflies illuminating backyards and cicadas serenading in the trees, gradually gives way to the crisp breezes of fall. It’s a time when golden leaves blanket our Cincinnati streets, and the anticipation of a new academic year hangs in the air. For many, this seasonal transition also marks a milestone: seeing our children off to college. As they venture forth, taking those monumental steps towards independence and adulthood, there’s a legal step parents often overlook – securing a Power of Attorney (POA) for their college-bound young adults. At Godbey Law LLC, we’re here to illuminate its importance.

Understanding Power of Attorney (POA)
At its core, a Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows one person, known as the “principal”, to designate another person, the “agent” or “attorney-in-fact”, to act on their behalf. There are various types of POAs, but for our college-going context, we’re specifically considering the health care and general (or financial) POA.

1. Health Care Power of Attorney
Once your child turns 18, they are legally an adult. This means that, as a parent, you no longer automatically have the right to access their medical records or make decisions on their behalf, even in emergencies. A Health Care POA ensures that if your college student is incapacitated and can’t make medical decisions, you can step in seamlessly.

Imagine your child faces a medical emergency while away at college. Without a Health Care POA, the hospital might not even disclose your child’s condition to you due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations.

2. Durable (Financial) Power of Attorney
While we hope our children don’t encounter financial challenges or obligations they can’t handle, unforeseen circumstances can arise. A Durable Power of Attorney lets parents step in to manage bank accounts, pay bills, or handle other financial matters on their student’s behalf. This can be invaluable if your child is studying abroad or is otherwise unreachable for an extended period.

The Real-Life Implications

Consider these scenarios:

*Your college student is studying abroad and loses their wallet. They need urgent access to funds, or perhaps there’s a complication with their housing payment. A Durable POA allows you to act swiftly, managing their finances without hurdles.*

*In the unfortunate instance that your child is involved in an accident and is hospitalized, a Health Care POA ensures you can speak directly with medical professionals, making decisions that are in your child’s best interest.*

The peace of mind that comes with having these documents in place is immeasurable.

Why Every Parent Should Consider a POA
Beyond these scenarios, establishing a POA fosters a dialogue about responsibilities and the realities of adulthood. It’s a testament to mutual trust, where young adults acknowledge that while they’re stepping into the world independently, it’s wise to have safeguards in place.

Furthermore, securing a POA doesn’t mean parents are overstepping or that college students are forfeiting their independence. It simply ensures that in the face of unexpected challenges, there’s a safety net.

Setting Up a POA
The process is straightforward:

1. Consult with an Attorney: At Godbey Law LLC, our experienced team can guide you and your college student through the nuances of setting up a POA tailored to your needs.

2. Discuss and Decide: Engage in an open conversation with your child about the parameters of the POA, ensuring mutual understanding.

3. Execute the Document: Once the terms are clear and agreed upon, the principal (your college student) and the agent (typically a parent) sign the POA in the presence of a notary.

4. Safekeeping: Store the original POA in a safe place, with copies readily available if needed.

In Conclusion
As the vibrant hues of fall mark the transition of our youngsters from high school graduates to college freshmen, the legal team at Godbey Law LLC encourages parents in Cincinnati and beyond to consider the Power of Attorney as an essential part of their back-to-school checklist. While it’s a document we hope you’ll never need to use, its presence offers peace of mind and a safety net for both parents and their college-bound students.

Wishing all students a successful and safe academic year ahead, and to the parents, the serenity that comes with knowing they’re prepared for any eventuality.