Even with the last week of 100+ temperatures, you can feel the change of the season. No, it is not college football season, yet only Oklahoma University and Texas doing something together can steal the headlines from the Olympics.  There are twenty-nine days until Nebraska and Illinois kick off the 2021 college football season at noon.  Another fall ritual that signals that college football is close is by our friend and client planiting his Ohio State flag in his yard, similar to the Baker Mayfield planting the OU flag at Ohio State.

After a year of COVID-19, “Back to School” is the mind of parents everywhere. Today we are going to focus on the college students, especially the recently turned 18 freshmen students.  These few final weeks before making the trip to college town USA for your first experience of dropping your son or daughter off at school will happen fast.

As a college parent or grandparent, you need to take five minutes to read this blog.  Reading for five minutes may be the most important action you take about sending your child to college or a gap year, and I highly doubt it is on your list.

You are busy with last-minute shopping, packing, and worrying about roommates. (And maybe this Delta Variant of COVID-19)

Here’s one more thing you should do as you prepare for the significant separation:

Ask your son or daughter to sign a durable power of attorney and a health care proxy.

Why? – The 2:00 AM Telephone Call.

While my oldest daughter was a freshman in college, I had a long-time friend get a phone call at 2:00 AM.  Her recounting it still gives me chills today.

Imagine your phone ringing at 2 AM on an October Friday morning.

The frantic voice on the phone is your child’s roommate telling you that your child has been in a car accident and is in the ambulance headed to the hospital.

She called the hospital and found an emergency room nurse who told her that her daughter would be fine, but she needed to get there ASAP.  There was no disclosure of the injuries or talking with the daughter.

It was a long drive from Dallas, Texas, to Stillwater, Oklahoma.

The Problem

Unless you have a Medical Power of Attorney, the hospital or doctor is not required and, in many cases, cannot divulge information due to privacy issues.  You are here, and they are often hours away.

Over Eighteen

Once a child is over eighteen, you as a parent are no longer their guardian.  Yes, I know you are paying for college, the car, the iPhone, and many other items.

None of those make you the guardian.

The Documents Every Parent Needs

These two estate planning documents, more commonly associated with aging, are essential for younger people too. Without them, in most states, parents don’t have the authority to make health care decisions or manage money for their kids once they turn 18—even if they are paying the tuition, still have those kids on their health insurance plans and claim them as dependents on their tax returns. That means if your son or daughter is in an accident and becomes disabled, even temporarily, a parent could need court approval to act on their behalf.

The risk is real. Accidents are the leading cause of death for young adults, and a quarter-million Americans between 18 and 25 are hospitalized with nonlethal injuries each year.

After what sometimes seems like endless years spent raising your child, their adulthood—and all the rights that go with it—may creep up suddenly. And much as you hope you’ve prepared them to take care of themselves, you may still be their fallback for emergencies. Getting the necessary authority to play that role can be a rite of passage and a learning experience for both parent and child.

The Documents

Durable Power of Attorney appoints a family member, friend, or adviser as an agent to act on your behalf, if need be, in a variety of financial and legal matters. These vary by state and can be found online by searching “free [your state name] power of attorney form.”

 A Medical or Health Care Power of Attorney authorizes someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. And legally, it also automatically gives that agent access to your medical records. In the same document, or a separate one called the living will, you can express your preferences about end-of-life care.

You don’t have to be a helicopter parent to need either of these documents.

It can be helpful in various situations that can arise when children go overseas, either for a gap year or to study.  In the case of a financial emergency, having a power of attorney makes it easier to contact the local embassy or wire money from a child’s bank account, for example. It could also come in handy if a parent needs to sign a legal document, such as a lease, in the child’s absence.

College is a time of learning, growth, and transition for both parent and child.

Need assistance getting this accomplished?  Call us 214-239-4700

It just might be a great time to look at your estate documents and see if they need an update as well.

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Michael Tannery CPA CDFA® AIF®  CEO

Registered Principal | Tannery & Company

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 The opinions expressed in this material are for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice.  Individual circumstances do vary.

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