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EP 101: Legal Documents for College Bound Children

Getting ready to go to college is a busy and emotional time for college-bound children as well as the parents they are leaving behind.  In between buying dorm furniture, choosing classes, orientation, and packing up the car we suggest finding time to give some thought to the changing legal relationship between parent and child – and some legal documents that help both parties work through the transition.

Though many college students likely don’t feel as if they are yet “adulting,” most college-bound students are legally adults! Everyone becomes an adult when they turn 18 years old.  When you become an adult you automatically gain significant legal rights to make decisions for yourself – and at the same time parents lose the right to access information or make decisions on their children’s behalf.

The reality, however, is that most parents continue to assist their “adult” college-bound children in paying bills, signing contracts, and almost every aspect of their ongoing college life. In some cases, parents may have contractual rights to access information on behalf of their college-bound children – under a contract with the College or as a co-signor on a bank account. Many parents, however, will be surprised and frustrated to find themselves in situations during their child’s time at college where they cannot access important information or make decisions on behalf of their now adult child. For example, trying to pay a medical bill or enquire about an insurance payment.

These frustrating situations, however, can be avoided by the following documents we suggest every parent of a college-bound student obtain so they can continue to act on their children’s behalf when needed.

Statutory Durable Power of Attorney

This is a document which allows Child A, acting as a “Principal,” to appoint Parent B to act for them as an “Agent,” meaning that the Agent can manage the Principal’s property and make financial decisions on the Principal’s behalf. This document can be effective immediately, allowing a Parent to handle matters for their Child.  This can be very helpful as it grants a Parent not only the power to actually sign in a transaction but often more importantly to access the Child’s information. For example, a parent could help manage a car purchase, deal with a family property issue, or to deal with a apartment lease.

Medical Power of Attorney

This is a Document which allows Child A, acting as “principal,” to appoint Parent B to act for them as “agent,” specifically for the purpose of making medical decisions.  This type of power of attorney only becomes effective when the principal becomes incapacitated.

HIPAA Release

A document which allows Child A to appoint Parent B (or Parents B and C) to access the first individual’s medical records. In addition to doctor’s offices and hospitals, other related businesses such as health insurance companies may require this release to access medical records. 

It is important to discuss with your college bound child what everyone’s expectations are in reference to the access these documents will grant a parent. As with any legal document, it is very important to understand that documents recommended above are granting significant legal authority to the parent.  A college bound child is learning how to live independently, a goal shared by their parents. These documents should not become a crutch, where the child is simply assuming that parents will take care of everything. As such, it is important to agree when or why a parent might utilize information using these documents, as well as what information a parent might access.

For other documents which a young adult may consider:

Click HERE to read about a Will.

Click HERE to read about other estate planning documents to consider for any adult.

Redding Law, PLLC intends this educational article to be an overview of a legal document, idea, or theory. The reader should note that this overview is specific to Texas and Texas laws and is not intended to be legal advice for any person or situation. To receive additional copies of this newsletter or permission to reprint any portion please contact Redding Law, PLLC. ffff

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