Legal Considerations for Your Legal Age Children

Your College-Age Children are Adults! Why You Should Be Proactive with a Health Care Directive and Power of Attorney

Now that your child has gone off to college, you may be thinking your primary role is to pay the tuition, do laundry when they come for the weekend, focus on your other children, etc.  What you might not have considered is that your adult child is legally no longer your responsibility, and your right to information, in particular health-related information is significantly restricted.  Additional legal and documentation complications enter if your child is attending school in a different city or state. Laws restricting access to information have changed significantly in recent years, in particular what you, as the parent, can access about your adult child.

Two important documents to secure before your child heads off to State-U are a Health Care Directive and Durable Power of Attorney.

Health Care Directive

A health care directive (HCD), or power of attorney (POA) is most important, as it authorizes someone else (parent) to make medical decisions on behalf of the child, as well as gives access to medical records in the event the child is incapacitated or temporarily unable to make decisions for himself. The document is state-specific to where it will be used.

Most states have default statutes for who can make medical decisions on one’s behalf, and it’s not always the “correct” order of people  For example, a stepparent or sibling may be the preferred agent to make decisions. With many college students traveling out of state, this can become an issue as both client and child may not be familiar with a particular state’s law.

A signed HCD will give you or another important individual access to and the ability to assist your child with health-related decisions.

Durable POA

Some clients are also opting for a durable POA to make financial decisions on the child’s behalf. The financial POA is also state-specific. While the health care POA is important for all students, the financial POA can be more relevant for high-net-worth (HNW) families, as young adults from HNW families tend to have more assets and business interests at stake.  Note that the financial POA can also authorize the designated agent to deal with student loans and sort out tuition bills.

Because these documents are relatively inexpensive and quick to put in place, it’s a good idea for all clients with kids heading off to college to have them. An attorney can assist with identifying needs based on your specific situation, drafting the documents and explaining the importance of signing the documents to the child.


Our team of wealth advisors here at BerganKDV are fee-only fiduciaries who are dedicated to helping you navigate all areas of your financial life. Want to learn more about what we can do for you? Start here.


The views and strategies described may not be suitable for all investors. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for accounting, legal or tax advice. References to future returns are not promises or even estimates of actual returns a client portfolio may achieve. Any forecasts contained herein are for illustrative purposes only and are not to be relied upon as advice or interpreted as a recommendation.

The views expressed are those of BerganKDV Wealth Management. They are subject to change at any time. These views do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other firm. Investment advisory services and fee-based planning offered through BerganKDV Wealth Management, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor.

CATEGORIES: Wealth Management
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