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Advisor Perspective

Advisor Perspective

Consider a Power of Attorney for children headed off to college

Anthony Cecchini

Principal/CEO - CFP®, J.D.
Anthony Cecchini is a Principal and CEO of JMG Financial. He graduated with a Juris Doctor, Master of Business Administration from DePaul University.

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Consider a Power of Attorney for children headed off to college

As my oldest child headed off to college for the first time this fall, I have been consistently reminded of both how old she has become and how young she still is. Starting college presents many new challenges for our children, and many added responsibilities. They will be on their own for the first time and must handle all the tasks that come with being self-sufficient. All of this on top of keeping a strong focus on the reason they are there – their education. As parents, we will want to help in whatever way possible.

One important and unexpected way would be through a signed Power of Attorney. Since our children are now over the age of 18, they are legally considered an adult and are, therefore, entitled to certain privacies, including from their parent/guardian. The Power of Attorney designates an agent (i.e., the parent) to act on behalf of the signer (i.e., the child). There are two types of Power of Attorney that are important to have:

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act restricts medical professionals and insurance companies from sharing health care information of individuals to outside parties. Once a child reaches majority age (which is 18 or 21, depending on the state), “outside parties” will include parents/guardians. This Power of Attorney allows the parent to have access to medical records, transfer files/copies to family physicians, and take care of follow-up health care items. Most importantly, it grants the ability to discuss medical care in the event of an emergency.

Durable Power of Attorney for Property

Since our college-age children are adults, we, as parents, are no longer allowed custodial access to their bank information. Even though a parent may be the sole source of financial support for the child during college, privacy laws deny access to important information such as financial aid, student loan details, tuition bills, and grades. This Power of Attorney allows the parent to help manage the child’s financial matters while they are away at school.

“Don’t forget to rent the microwave,” yells my daughter as we make final preparations to reserve her dorm room. By the way, whatever happened to hot plates? As you make final preparations to send your child off to college, by all means, don’t forget the microwave! I would add, however, that you should also be sure to not forget to establish both Health Care and Property Power of Attorney documents.