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It's the time of year when many parents are doing their back-to-school shopping. If you have a college-bound child, you are probably busy getting him outfitted for dorm life, buying a new laptop, and preparing to drop him off hundreds, or even thousands of miles from home.

What you may have forgotten in all the chaos is that your little bundle of joy has reached the age of 18. That means, in the eyes of the law, he is an adult. Mom or Dad can no longer make his decisions for him, respond to his mail, talk to his doctor, etc. without his consent. There are several situations where this inability to act on your child's behalf could cause problems.

Consider these scenarios:

  • What if your child receives a notice for jury duty or needs to renew a driver’s license or car registration while he is away at college?
  • How would your child get money in the event of an emergency? You can't access his bank account unless you share a joint account.
  • What if he is away from campus on an internship or studying abroad and needed to return home on short notice? He may have trouble doing so until after a deadline has passed.
  • How will you be informed about his grades? Just because you are paying his tuition does not override the school’s privacy policy that protects a student’s grades and academic records.
  • What if there is an accident and you need information about his injuries or health care? If your child leaves you a message that he was taken to the hospital for a sport-related injury or a car accident, you may be surprised when you call and the hospital will not confirm or deny that your child has even been admitted.

True story

There were numerous stories about the parents of Virginia Tech students who were injured when a gunman attacked that campus. When frantic parents called local hospitals, trying to locate their children, the hospitals were unable to release any information.

Here's the (simple!) solution

Luckily, the solution to these issues is simple. Many banks and brokerage firms offer a free limited power of attorney for individual accounts. These powers of attorney allow the parent to deposit financial aid checks, make withdrawals, etc.

A designation of patient advocate form allows a parent to receive information about the child’s health care status, get copies of medical records and discuss his care with health care providers. As with any important legal paperwork, the parties involved should thoroughly discuss the documents before they are signed. The student must understand why the documents are needed, that he can revoke them at any time and how and when Mom and Dad will use those powers of attorney. Most importantly, make sure the school and the college infirmary know about the documents and have copies on file.

Questions? Contact us for a free consultation!