Critter Corner: Why Would an 18-Year-Old Need a Power of Attorney?

Dear Raider,

A friend told me that when her son headed to college, they had a Power of Attorney drafted for him. Isn’t 18 way too young to think about these types of things? Why would an 18-year-old need a Power of Attorney or other estate planning documents?

Thanks for clarifying!

Cole Idge

Dear Cole,

Mr. Farr often stresses that incapacity planning is important for every adult, regardless of age or financial situation. Similar to how every incoming college student needs linens, toiletries, books, and computers before they arrive on campus, every parent should get a signed power of attorney before their 18-year-old ventures out on their own.

Since incapacity can strike anyone at any time, all young adults should establish their Incapacity Planning documents. A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document every parent should have their 18-year-old sign that would give the parent immediate authority to access medical and financial information and handle those issues on behalf of the teen. Here’s why:

  • Once a child turns 18, a parent no longer has the legal right to make financial and medical decisions.Without a POA, parents may not be able to help their kids if they need help. Even if parents still view their 18-year-olds as children, the law sees them as adults.
  • Under privacy laws, parents will no longer have the right to make medical or financial decisions on behalf of the teens, regardless if the parents pay tuition, carry their children on their medical insurance, or provide other financial assistance. A waiver of privacy under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) specifically covers protected health information and is signed as part of incapacity planning documents. This information encompasses health status, provision of health care, or payment for health care that is created or collected by an entity and can be linked to a specific individual.A financial POA is also important because it allows a parent to deal with financial matters such as student loans or investment accounts, without the teen being present. A financial POA allows parents to access a college-age child’s bank account, receive and pay tuition bills, and even step in and help resolve issues the teen could be having with an unscrupulous landlord, credit card, or cable company.
  •  Some POAs include language that includes student education information protected under the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA), but not all of them do. It’s important for families to sign the FERPA release with their child’s school to ensure parental access to grades, related financial bills, records, and even the ability to speak with teachers and counselors.  

When your son is home on a break, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with the firm to discuss his incapacity planning documents, including getting Powers of Attorney in place.

Hope this helps!


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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.