The other day I saw a commercial on TV and it was talking about back-to-school sales. It was a reminder to me how fast time goes and that before we know it we will be talking about Labor Day, football and kids going back to school. It is also a reminder to me that young adults will be going to college; many of them for the very first time. In that regard, it is always important for families who send children to college to keep in mind that they may still consider them a child, but the law considers them an adult. As a result, there are some things that parents need to do before their child goes to college and there’s no time like the present to do them.
As you send your child to college it is important to recognize that as a parent, your rights are severely limited when your child turns 18. When a child turns 18 they are a legal adult and thus, they not only have legal responsibilities but also legal rights that they did not have as a minor. For example, an 18 year-old-child can enter into a legal and binding contract. In addition, they have privacy rights. When your child was a minor, as a parent you had certain rights, for example, when it came to medical care. You no longer have those rights. Therefore, as your child gets ready to go college there are a couple of legal documents that you should consider. These documents are not only important for parents, but also young adults.
The first document I recommend is a medical durable power of attorney. A medical durable power of attorney allows parents to be involved in a child’s medical care. For example, what happens if your child is injured or has some other medical emergency? As a parent you do not have rights. Therefore, in such an event, you’d be forced to go to court to obtain those rights. My philosophy is, who wants to go to court particularly in times of an emergency? Having a medical durable power of attorney would allow the parents to be involved in the medical process including the right to talk to doctors, look at medical files and get a second opinion. As far as I’m concerned, in the great majority of situations, when a child goes to college, the parents should automatically complete this document.
I am always a believer that if you can save money, why not. In that regard, you don’t have to pay anyone to obtain a medical durable power of attorney. The Michigan Patient Advocate form is a free, fill-in-the-blank form that should fit the great majority of people’s needs. You can download a free copy on my website at www.bloomassetmanagement.com.
I also recommend a general durable power of attorney. This type of power of attorney allows you to handle your child’s affairs if they cannot. Once again, the purpose of this is to make sure that judges, courts and lawyers stay out of family affairs.
It’s also important before your child goes away to school to consider whether the belongings your child will be taking to college need to be insured. It’s not like the old days when someone went to college and they may have had a clock radio or a cheap stereo. Today, it’s a different world with laptops, cellphones and iPads. The two main questions are, do you need coverage and what is covered through your present homeowner’s policy. It’s a good idea to have a conversation with your homeowner’s insurance agent.
We all know that nothing in life is as easy as it used to be. Everything is more complex including your child going to college. Therefore, while you still have time, you should take care of these matters now so you’re not rushing at the last moment.