Most of the time, powers of attorney are drafted as part of the estate planning process. As college students head back to campus this fall, however, they should consider preparing powers of attorney for financial and healthcare needs.
Once children reach the age of 18, parents are no longer able to automatically make financial and medical decisions on their behalf. For example, healthcare privacy laws will not let parents access healthcare information about their adult children absent written authorization. Similarly, if a child is in an accident and incapacitated, a parent may have to go through the legal guardianship appointment process to make healthcare or financial decisions for the child, which can take time and cost thousands of dollars in court and attorney fees.
Powers of attorney help to avoid these issues.
A medical power of attorney appoints an agent to make decisions in the event that the signor is unable to make medical decisions. Many states, including Texas, have statutory forms available to allow people to easily draft a healthcare power of attorney. The Texas form may be found here. Under Texas law, the form must either be notarized or signed in the presence of two witnesses. Once executed, the student should keep a copy of the form and provide another copy to the person he or she appoints to be the healthcare agent.
A financial power of attorney allows the signor to appoint an agent to act on his or her behalf with regard to financial affairs. The power of attorney may be general (meaning the power of attorney becomes effective immediately) or springing (meaning it will not begin until a future time–usually when the person is declared incompetent by an attorney). A general power of attorney may be useful to allow the student’s parent to handle various financial affairs from home even if the student is not declared incompetent. Again, a copy of this document should be retained by the student and a copy given to the appointed agent. Texas also provides a statutory form for a financial power of attorney, available here. This document must be signed before a notary.
Hopefully, college students will never need to rely upon these documents, but it is better to be safe than sorry!