As the new academic year begins, parents across the country are making sure their college-bound students have everything they need for a successful start. From textbooks and laptops to dorm essentials, the back-to-school checklist can be overwhelming. However, there’s one crucial item that often goes overlooked: a Power of Attorney (POA).

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that grants someone the authority to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated or unable to make decisions. Many college students are young adults—excited to embark on their journey of independence—and might not consider the importance of such a document. However, the reality is that unforeseen accidents or illnesses can happen at any time, and having a POA in place provides peace of mind knowing that someone they know and trust has the authority to make medical, financial, and legal decisions on their behalf.

So, what could happen if your college student doesn’t sign a POA? Let’s explore some potential scenarios:

Important medical decisions could be made by someone they don’t trust

If your college student is unable to communicate their medical preferences due to an accident or illness, the state of Alabama will turn to their next of kin: since most college students won’t have a spouse or any adult children, medical care providers will likely turn to parents first, then adult siblings, and then other adult relatives. While this may not sound like a worst-case-scenario situation, family dynamics are often complicated. Maybe the student doesn’t trust that their parents will make decisions along their guidelines, or perhaps they haven’t spoken with their estranged adult sibling in many years. Having a signed POA ensures that an agent of their choosing can make healthcare decisions on their behalf.

Their bills may not get paid

Without a POA, it can be difficult—if not altogether impossible—to gain access to a student’s bank account, or to pay their bills and access other financial assets. This could mean college tuition doesn’t get paid, rent falls to the wayside, they lose access to subscription services, and they incur mounds of late penalties that—for a broke college student—can be a difficult hole to crawl out of.

Academic matters won’t be properly addressed

In case of incapacitation, a POA agent can assist with academic-related issues, like handling course enrollments, communicating with professors, or accessing educational records. Without a POA, your student may miss important deadlines, which could negatively impact their entire academic trajectory.

Legal matters will be left unresolved

If a student becomes incapacitated due to a car accident or other incident with legal ramifications, it’s crucial that a trusted agent has the authority to sign legal documents on their behalf. A signed POA ensures that someone will be able to handle legal affairs on behalf of your college student.

Parents may not be able to access information about their student

We know your student will always be your baby, but once they reach the age of majority, their personal information becomes private—yes, even to you! Without a POA, parents or loved ones may encounter hurdles in obtaining information about their college student’s well-being and current circumstances.

Encouraging your college student to sign a Power of Attorney doesn’t mean they are relinquishing control. Instead, it provides a safety net and peace of mind for everyone involved. Consult with an estate planning attorney to ensure the POA document is customized to your student’s unique needs and state regulations.

While college can be an exciting and transformative time, it’s also essential to prepare for the unexpected. By adding a Power of Attorney to your back-to-school checklist, you are safeguarding your college student’s future and ensuring that their well-being and interests are protected no matter what life throws their way.

Contact Miller Estate and Elder Law

For more information regarding POAs and how to get started, contact our team by giving us a call at (256) 251-2137 or contact us via the brief form below.

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