Advance directives for your college aged children

When preparing a child to go off to college, it is important to make sure they have all their dorm supplies, textbooks, and the right meal plan for the upcoming academic year. However, an often overlooked but arguably more important item on the to do list should be the now 18-year old’s advance directives. Advance directives include Healthcare Power of Attorney, Durable Power of Attorney, and Advance Care Plan.

Health Care Power of Attorney

In a Health Care Power of Attorney (“HCPOA”), your child, who is now a young adult, selects an agent to make decisions concerning medical treatment and services if they are unable to make decisions for themselves. When a child turns 18, a parent no longer has legal rights to access their medical records or make medical decisions regarding their treatment and care. In the unfortunate event a young adult is admitted to the hospital, the doctors and nurses will not be able to give the parents information regarding their child’s health condition.

However, if a young adult child has an HCPOA in place, it contains the necessary legal language (including HIPPA authorizations), and designates a parent (or whomever the young adult selects) as their agent. The selected agent then has the necessary legal authority to access the young adult’s medical records and information, and to make medical decisions on behalf of the young adult.

Durable Power of Attorney

In a Durable Power of Attorney (“DPOA”), an individual designates an agent with the power to act on their behalf in financial affairs. If a young adult designates their parent as their Durable Power of Attorney it will allow the parent to sign documents for them, manage their accounts, file taxes, etc. This power is critical in emergency situations, but also very convenient in non-emergency circumstances, such as when a child is studying abroad.

Advance Care Plan

The last legal document is the Advance Care Plan. This document establishes the quality of life that would be unacceptable to the individual signing, and allows them to select end of life medical treatments if they reach an unacceptable quality of life. For instance, if an individual enters into a permanent unconscious condition, the Advance Care Plan allows the individual to approve or reject certain treatments, such as life support and feeding tubes. By making these selections, the young adult can make their desires and intention known, and gives the parent (as the agent) the authority to enact the decisions.

While it’s more fun to pick out decorations for a dorm, having these documents signed is a critical part of preparing to leave for college.