This time of year is as exciting as it is stressful for families across the country. Many families have either already sent or will soon send their children off to college. For some families, this is the first time and, for others, it’s another year of saying goodbye as children become adults and live on their own.
There are plenty of nerves that come with sending your child off to college. Some parents feel disconnected and worry about all the challenges their children will face on their own on a college campus. While it’s important to trust the work we’ve already done as parents and trust our children to exercise their newfound independence in a responsible manner, there are steps we can take to protect them from afar – through estate planning.
Stay Involved in Healthcare Decisions
What many parents don’t realize is that once your child is 18 you no longer have assumed legal access to healthcare information and healthcare decisions. These decisions are now to be made by your child as they are considered a legal adult capable of making their own healthcare decisions.
If your child is in a car accident or suffers some other serious injury then you may be left not knowing what hospital they’re in, what treatment they’re receiving, or what long-term impacts they may be facing. You can remedy this by having your child appoint you as their Healthcare Power of Attorney. This process assigns a trusted adult to be involved in the decision-making process for healthcare situations and provides you with access to the medical records necessary to make those decisions.
These forms will need to specifically mention mental health if you want access to those records and decisions. This is because mental health diagnoses (including depression, ADHD, and other similar disorders) have an extra layer of protection. Otherwise, you may be limited exclusively to physical healthcare information and decisions.
It is illegal to force someone to sign any estate planning documents against their will – so if your child doesn’t want to do this or has another adult in mind, it’s important to allow them to make that decision. These papers can be signed before they go off to school or you can try to do so after they’re in school or on an upcoming break. The sooner the better – as we can never predict when incidents will occur.
Assist in Financial Decisions
The same situation applies to your child’s finances. Even if you’ve been sending them money and supporting them financially, you will still need to cover parameters surrounding financial decisions. This can be done in the same Power of Attorney filing that established your involvement in their healthcare decisions.
This will be an expensive and stressful time for our children. It’s important to make sure they have the financial resources necessary to make their way through college and take advantage of opportunities to further their education and experiences. If you’re not legally assigned to be involved in those duties then you may be in the dark about what they’re spending your money on and how they’re handling their overall educational experience.
None of this is to say college students shouldn’t have their own freedom to make their own decisions. This is a time when they’re going to learn a lot about themselves and the world around them. Power of Attorney forms should never be intended to take those freedoms away from them. The ultimate goal with a POA form is to make sure there’s another adult available to make decisions when our children are otherwise unable to do so.At Pence Law Firm, we can help you draft these forms and make sure all of the necessary information like healthcare, mental health, and finances are included. We want to help your family find peace of mind during this time of change and help you protect what you’ve grown. Contact our team today to make sure your Oklahoma Power of Attorney forms are executed properly.