Sending a child off to college is a bittersweet event. You have already seen signs that your child is maturing, and this move is certain to provide the opportunity for further growth. Difficult as it may be, you have to let go. In fact, if your child is 18 years or older, the law has already severed certain ties.
The last thing you want to think about when your kid leaves for college is the possibility that he or she may become seriously ill or injured. Even if your son or daughter is attending a New Jersey institution, being apart when your child needs help may create a desperate feeling. Unfortunately, even if you were nearby, offering assistance may not be possible for you.
Preparing for the worst
Once your child reaches the age of 18, the law considers him or her an adult. This means that if, for example, your child ends up unconscious in a hospital, federal privacy laws may require you to seek a court order before doctors allow you to make decisions about your child's medical care or even discuss his or her condition.
Additionally, if your child is ill for an extended period -- or if your child decides to travel abroad for a semester -- you may not have the legal right to access your child's finances or manage any legal issues that arise. Because of this, many parents make sure their college-bound children have the following documents in place:
- A durable power of attorney allows you to sign legal documents and manage financial matters for your son or daughter, such as paying bills, filing taxes or renewing a vehicle registration.
- A health care power of attorney allows doctors to include you in any discussion of your child's medical condition and accept your directions for the kind of care doctors will provide or withhold.
- With an advance directive, your child can indicate the kinds of treatment he or she wishes and those treatments doctors should withhold. In this way, you can exercise your authority as health care proxy with the comfort that you are following your child's wishes.
Having these documents in place means you will not have to waste precious time seeking a court order to make vital decisions when your child needs help. Difficult as it may be to think about any type of tragedy befalling your son or daughter, it is wise to prepare for such possibilities so that you can be available to protect your child.