The stress of leaving home and becoming an adult can be difficult for anyone. It is especially tough for college students and young adults who have to face the uncertainty of their future. They have to support themselves and are going to gain the power to make decisions on their own, for better or worse. However, there are a few legal documents that they can get to make the transition easier.
What legal documents does every college student need?
Every college student needs powers of attorney for finances, powers of attorney for medical decisions, and an advance directive for healthcare. They should also fill out a FERPA waiver so that a parent or other trusted adult can access their student records (if needed). Not only are these documents practical in getting help with the big stuff, but they are a great lesson in what “adulting” is all about.
What is a “Power of Attorney” or POA?
A power of attorney is a legal document in which the principal (the person granting the power of attorney) grants another person (the agent) the power to act on their behalf. For example, an agent could help the principal make and carry out decisions about the student’s finances, health care, and other important matters.
In most cases, we create two types of powers of attorney- one for financial issues and one for medical issues. It is important to note that the college student needs to be the one who initiates and discusses their powers of attorney with a lawyer. A parent cannot create a power of attorney document for their child.
How to choose the best agent for powers of attorney
For most young adults, the parents are the trusted partners in making important decisions. Therefore choosing a parent as an agent for power of attorney makes sense for a college student. However, it’s important that the individual assigning the powers choose what is best for their situation. Here are some things to consider:
For medical powers of attorney – choose an agent who will be able to carry out the principal’s wishes
A college student should choose an agent who will be able to make medical decisions according to their personal preferences. Who do they want to have to communicate with the hospital in an emergency? Does that person support their values and would they be able to carry them out in the event of a difficult decision?
For example, when I was in my late 20s and in law school I prepared my first advance directive. When I tried to have a conversation with my parents about what I wanted for end-of-life care, it was unfathomable to them that I would want to discuss it. I also knew that based on my wishes, it would be very difficult emotionally, if not impossible, for my parents to honor my choices. For that reason, I selected my brother and best friend as my agents. In short, a college student needs an agent who can carry out their preferences for medical care.
For financial powers of attorney – choose a responsible and trustworthy agent
A financial power of attorney agent should be trustworthy. They need to be someone who is responsible for their own finances and will put the principal’s best interest above their own.
Anyone who chooses an untrustworthy agent would risk losing all of their savings. What’s to stop an agent from draining a bank account and running off to Fiji? While this is an extreme example, and there are legal remedies for someone who abuses their power like that, it is better to not have to deal with that happening.
What is an “Advance Directive” and why does a college student need one?
An advance directive is a written statement by a patient or their legal representative that outlines their wishes for medical treatment in the event of incapacity or death. Every college student should take the time to document their preferences for medical-related decisions.
For example: In a medical emergency does the individual want CPR if their heart stops? Do they want a ventilator if they cannot breathe on their own? What about a feeding tube or life support?
Although nobody wants to think of these scenarios, it is helpful to have these decisions spelled out. It’s stressful for friends and family to make these types of medical decisions.
I want to make it perfectly clear: Having an advance directive is important for everyone to have, no matter their age or health. It is also important to review advance directives through each stage of life. The treatments that we want at age 30 or 40 may not seem like such a great idea as we reach into our 90s or 100s.
What’s the difference between a power of attorney and an advance directive?
It’s easy to see why people confuse a power of attorney with an advance directive. So, what is the difference? A power of attorney grants an agent the ability to act on behalf of a principal, should they become incapacitated. An advance directive for healthcare, on the other hand, specifically addresses what someone wants if they are unable to make decisions for themselves. It is a written record of what to do (and not to do) in an emergency or end-of-life scenario.
When does a power of attorney or advance directive go into effect?
There is a lot of flexibility when it comes to the terms of a financial power of attorney. A limited power of attorney can go into effect when a specific event happens, such as incapacitation. There are also terms that make a power of attorney go into effect immediately. A qualified attorney can create a power of attorney to suit anyone’s situation.
When it comes to medical care, a healthcare provider will always make an attempt to communicate with the patient first. In the case of incapacity or impaired judgment, however, a doctor will communicate with the medical agent or refer to an advance directive instead. For example, let’s say a patient is in a coma or under anesthesia. The doctor will refer to a medical agent or advance directive when making a time-sensitive decision for their care.
*Click here to learn more about when a POA goes into effect.
Powers of attorney and advance directives are useful at any stage of life
Powers of attorney and advance directives are useful, no matter the age or stage of life a person is in. While most older adults have powers of attorney and advance directives in their estate plan, a younger adult could make use of them too! For example, a college student can give powers of attorney to their parents and create an advance directive just in case they need help. These legal documents can help the student navigate the essential functions of “adulting” like managing bills, health and property insurance, leases, and more. Additionally, in the event of a tragedy, a medical power of attorney will allow the parent to make decisions on the child’s behalf. This is why it’s important to have powers of attorney and advance directives in place, no matter the stage in life.
Hire an attorney to draft a power of attorney
Although there are forms online for creating powers of attorney, having a lawyer draft your document will ensure that it complies with all the legal requirements set forth by the state. Online forms can fall short of holding up in court. With an insufficient power of attorney, or a lack of one at all, a family may have to fight for their loved ones’ wishes in court. The process of going to court under these circumstances is painful, expensive, and time-consuming. Most people want to avoid putting this kind of stress on their families.
Anyone can make their own advance directive
While the subject matter is difficult to think about, the process of creating an advance directive is easy. Just download the form online and prepare it at home. There’s no need for an attorney. To make the advance directive legal, sign it in front of a notary or two witnesses. For your convenience, we’ve included a link to the Tennessee Advance Directive for Healthcare form here. As a courtesy to our clients, our firm will include the preparation of advance directives, along with a notary, as a part of the flat-rate estate planning package or the “Adulting Package”.
Powers of attorney, advance directives for healthcare, and a FERPA waiver are documents that every college student should have. They are among the many important decisions a college student will make during their lifetime. It’s never too early to prepare for life’s unknowns.
GALS offers an ”Adulting” gift certificate for college students!
Looking for the perfect graduation gift? A gift certificate to our “Adulting” package is a great way to help prepare a young adult for life’s “what-ifs”. In addition to legal counseling, this package includes powers of attorney for finances, powers of attorney for medical care, a FERPA waiver, and an advance directive with a notary. Click here to buy your gift certificate. All you need is the name and email address of the recipient and we will take care of the rest!
This month we will discuss the subject of powers of attorney. In week one, we will discuss how to name a financial power of attorney. This is also known as a durable power of attorney.
There are many things to consider when appointing a financial power of attorney (aka an attorney-in-fact). This is an important position. Whoever you appoint would have the ability to make decisions regarding how you manage your finances. While it may seem obvious, it’s important to focus on choosing someone who is organized, trustworthy, and financially responsible.
What powers does an agent have when they have a financial power of attorney?
As stated earlier, the agent with a financial power of attorney can handle your finances just as you can. An agent will have the ability to go to your bank and handle banking transactions. They can contact your investment account broker and manage those funds. They can handle your insurance and sell your house. Of course, you want your agent to only make financial transactions in your best interest while you are incapacitated.
Can things go horribly wrong? Yes! Your agent has the power to clean out all of your bank accounts and sell your home. Heck, if they wanted to, they could take your assets, move to Fiji, and set up a little beach bar! I want to reiterate: It’s important that you choose someone who would never even think of doing something like that. You need to choose someone who will only have your best interest at heart.
Who should be your financial power of attorney?
When considering who should serve as a financial power of attorney, a lot of people are compelled to choose someone close to them. A lot of times this will be a relative, such as your children or possibly a sibling, but it doesn’t have to be. The agent could also be a close friend or even a professional if that is who fits that role in your life. In our practice, we like to make sure that our client acknowledges this very important point: the person you name as your agent in a financial power of attorney will have the ability to handle your finances pretty much the same as you will.
Choose an agent who can communicate effectively
Not only do you need to trust your agent, but we also recommend that you find someone that other people trust! While this element is not completely necessary, it may be important to you that your agent be relied upon to communicate important information effectively with the people in your life.
For example, if one of your relatives says to your agent: “Hey, my Aunty saved a lot of money and invested it well, how much does she have now and what has the spent money been used for?”. Ideally, you would have an agent that relatives intuitively trust to spend your funds in your interest. However, it would be really awesome if your agent took the time out of their day to respond thoroughly to your relative’s questions.
Your agent should be good at bookkeeping
In a perfect world, your agent with financial powers of attorney would be held accountable for the transactions coming out of your assets. A good agent can effectively answer questions about spending and back it up with good bookkeeping!
An agent with power of attorney does not have to live in your state
As we mentioned before, the era of digital banking is here and it allows us the option to choose from a larger pool of agents, regardless of their location. Now, many people think that their agent under a power of attorney cannot be someone who lives out of state. And that is simply not true. Sometimes it helps to have somebody who lives in the state, but that is not a requirement in Tennessee. We do so many things by email and telephone, texting, and online business transactions that your financial power of attorney person, your agent, will likely be handling any business transactions online.
Choose an agent who will outlive you
While this is not a requirement, it is a good idea to think about someone who will outlive you. Generally, when you are using your power of attorney, it’s when you’re incapacitated. While there are times when a durable power of attorney is used on a temporary basis, such as during a medical event, it is more likely going to be during a period when we are at the end of our lives and are experiencing some type of ongoing health condition that is not likely to improve. We recommend that you look for an agent who can help on a continuing basis. A well-suited agent allows everyone to relax and enjoy the time you have left on this earth.
Who should NOT be your durable power of attorney
Again, while it may seem obvious, it is important to reiterate that anyone who is untrustworthy, unlikeable, terrible with money, incapable of balancing a checkbook, or unable to effectively use online banking might not be the best choice for becoming an agent of financial power of attorney. The goal is to find someone who can keep good accounting records and knows exactly where your money went, down to every last penny! A good agent is someone who is willing to communicate with everyone without hesitation. The main point is that no one in your circle should be concerned that your agent is taking advantage of you if you are incapacitated.
Now, if you are not incapacitated, your agent should only be acting if you are telling them to do so. Even if you have your power of attorney take effect immediately, your agent can and should only act under your direction. If you find that the agent acts otherwise, there are legal actions you can take against them in court.
A power of attorney is a useful tool for organizing the “adulting” part of your life, especially in incapacitation. A financial power of attorney should be someone that you absolutely trust; someone who will not give pause to others in your life. Someone who is financially responsible and organized, and someone who is familiar with handling online transactions. It does not matter if your agent lives in your state. In short, find an agent you believe will always have your best interest at heart.
There are many types of powers of attorney. Many powers of attorney are used when creating a well-thought-out estate plan. Do you think you could use a durable power of attorney in Nashville? Schedule an initial call to see if we can help you with your situation.
From a legal standpoint, moms and dads don’t have a lot of rights after you turn eighteen. But we often rely on our parents more than we realize, something I was jerked into remembering during my junior year of college when I was rushed to the emergency room and soon told that the surgical team was ready for me. Ummmm….can’t I call my mom first???!!!
Fortunately my situation worked out, but as a lawyer, I can’t help thinking about what if I had not been awake to call my parents. What if I needed more extreme medical treatment and couldn’t tell the doctors what I wanted?
This is where you can learn from my mistakes. Get your legal shit together before you head off to college. Or after. But as soon as you can. I will even help you get everything completed by video call.
As a bona fide adult, you need a minimum of three documents in case of an emergency:
Healthcare Power of Attorney– This document allows you to appoint someone you trust to be your health care agent if you ever become incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself.
Financial Power of Attorney– A financial power of attorney allows you to give someone else permission to access bank accounts and act financially on your behalf if an emergency occurs. That means paying bills, completing financial aid or loan applications, dealing with insurance companies, and other ways that, well, adulting sucks. You’ll need to choose whether you want this to become effective immediately or only when you are unable to handle your own business.
Signed HIPAA Form– Now that your parents don’t have access to your medical records, you might want to consider authorizing someone to see them. Often family is a good go-to for all things medical (see: hereditary conditions) but you can name anyone-and everyone- you’d like. Mom, Dad, Brother, Best Friend, Fifth Grade Teacher? If you love them enough to share your blood panel results, then a HIPAA waiver is no biggie.
If you wanna get fancy, you can also sign a FERPA waiver to let your trusted adult have access to your educational record. It’s the grown-up version of the school sending home your report card to show how smart you are. 🤓
These are your documents, so you can name any adult you want to act in case you can’t (or don’t want to). In most cases that’s a parent, but let’s be real. Not all parents are created equal. Sometimes your “trusted adult” is your aunt, your neighbor, or your cousin. Whoever you name, it should be someone you trust with your life and your 💵 bank account.
When you’re ready to start getting your adult shit together, feel free to book a call with us or shoot us a text. The cost for all of these documents together is $500 through our office, and I bet mom and/or dad would even be willing to foot the bill if you show them how responsible you’re being!