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Back to School: Make Sure your College Student is Prepared!
As August draws near, many families are preparing to send their children to college. For those families, this time of year brings a frenzy of last-minute preparations, such as making those upsettingly costly textbook purchases, finding the exact dorm room décor that’s trending, or attempting to impart important life lessons, like how to make friends out of strangers, and how to cook in a dorm room without a kitchen.
Many parents, grandparents, and guardians will agree that relinquishing their loved one to college, and to the future he or she will begin to build there, is one of the most difficult and stressful parts of parenting. Families worry that they have not had enough time to teach their young adults all that they want to teach them, and they worry about whether or not their loved one is adequately prepared to participate in and take advantage of all the opportunities college has to offer. It is an overwhelming and busy time, and it is understandable that families often overlook the legal matters that become important once a child turns eighteen and becomes an adult.
Once a child becomes an adult, he or she may legally enter into contracts, sue or be sued, and will become liable for his or her own negligence or crimes. At the same time, parents and guardians lose their legal right to make financial or healthcare decisions for their young adult and will lose the ability to access any financial, medical, or educational records. Many young adults will likely relish this new responsibility and freedom, as it marks their exciting entrance into the adult world—but becoming legally responsible for oneself carries some often-overlooked risks.
Fortunately, some of the risks associated with entering adulthood can be mitigated by drafting a few legal documents. For convenience and peace of mind, all young adults over the age of eighteen should have a Financial Power of Attorney and a Healthcare Power of Attorney. These documents can make going to college or traveling to study abroad much easier, by allowing a student’s parent, guardian, or trusted relative to help manage the student’s personal affairs back at home, if needed. And, as parents and guardians know well, it is important to prepare for the worst-case scenario—a situation in which a young adult becomes temporarily or even permanently incapacitated. In such a situation, a parent is not allowed to simply reassume responsibility for the young adult’s decision-making. In some instances, a costly and drawn-out court proceeding may even be necessary for a parent to be declared their adult child’s legal guardian to be able to resume making decisions for him or her.
To help your child make a legal plan for his or her entry into adulthood, contact an attorney at DSS Law to draft the appropriate documents and to discuss any other important considerations or circumstances to help your child prepare for the future.