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Make Sure Your College Bound Kid Is Ready For Emergencies With A Power of Attorney and Medical Directive

There are dozens of checklists for college students that remind them to bring extra-long twin sheets, fans, and shower shoes. But there are two things missing from most of these lists—a Power of Attorney and a Medical Directive/Medical Power of Attorney.

Many parents are surprised to learn that after their child turns 18, they are no longer allowed access to their child’s medical records, bank accounts, or student records. A parent may cross their fingers that their child can manage medical appointments and balance their bank account without help by the time they start college, but there may be times they need assistance. Or, in a parent’s worst nightmare, they may not be able to handle these things because of a medical emergency. In these cases, a properly drafted and executed Power of Attorney and Medical Directive/Medical POA will allow a parent to discuss their child’s medical condition with doctors, make medical decisions for them, talk to the child’s school, and take any other steps necessary to help their child.

A Power of Attorney (“POA”) is a document that gives another person (“the agent”) authority to act for that person (“the principal”). The authority can be as broad or limited as necessary. Each state has its own laws about what language must be included in the POA, and how it needs to be executed.

A Medical Directive is a document that states what a person’s wishes are for medical care when the person is not able to speak for themselves. A Medical Directive can also be combined with a medical power of attorney that appoints a medical agent to make decisions for the child if they are not able to speak for themselves. Importantly, the medical power of attorney includes a HIPAA waiver, so that the agent can discuss the child’s medical care with doctors.

If your child is a resident of one state, but going to school in another state, it’s recommended that they execute two sets of legal documents, one set that conforms to each state’s laws. This way, there is no issue about the enforceability of the document if there is an emergency.

Be sure to have at least two originals of every executed document—one for the child to take with them, and one for the parents to keep at home.

Melanie M. Levan, Esq. is a partner with Dash Farrow, LLP in Moorestown, NJ, She concentrates her practice in estate planning, estate administration, and real estate.