Power of Attorney for College Students

An concept Image of a power of attorney

As the new school year begins, parents of college students may find themselves unable to help their now-adult children as much as they are used to. Whether you’ve just sent your freshman off to the dorms or are navigating a semester abroad, a durable financial power of attorney and health care surrogate designation for college students may be key tools for parents helping their kids make the transition to college and adulthood.

Why You Need a Power of Attorney for College Students

Parents have the ability to do a lot for their children, including arranging doctor appointments and managing finances. But all that comes to an end when children reach the age of majority. As of their 18th birthday, children become legal adults. That means as children go off to college parents lose the ability to make medical and financial decisions for them. Sometimes, that isn’t a good thing. Whether because of complicated medical situations or simply issues of distance, it is sometimes better for parents to maintain the ability to make decisions on their adult children’s behalf. That’s where a durable financial power of attorney and designation of health care surrogate come in.

While some states have combined medical and financial powers of attorney, Florida law separates medical and financial decisions between two different documents. A durable power of attorney allows a loved one to take financial actions on behalf of a person who is no longer able to care for themselves. A health care surrogate designation (sometimes called a medical power of attorney) allows the person designated to make medical decisions for the patient when they are unable to express their own wishes. A durable power of attorney and designation of health care surrogate can be useful for those just starting out in life as well.

Parents Use Health Care Surrogate Designations for College Students Doctors’ Appointments

When college students sign health care surrogate designations, they give their parents (or whoever else they might designate) the authority to:

  • Speak to doctors on their behalf
  • Receive confidential medical information
  • Get medical records or test results
  • Schedule appointments

Executing a healthcare surrogate designation can be helpful for college students who are going to school in another state or are less capable of managing their own medical care. It allows parents to continue to make appointments and address medical issues that may arise while the student is away at college (such as prescriptions being sent to the wrong pharmacy).

It is important to remember that when college students give their parents financial power of attorney or designate them as a health care surrogate, it does not replace their own ability to make decisions for themselves. A parent cannot overrule their college-age child’s medical decisions using a power of attorney, even if they feel those decisions are ill-advised. At the same time, a healthcare surrogate designation gives a parent access to all the student’s medical records with a single document. While this may be desirable in some cases, some college-age students may prefer a greater level of confidentiality around their medical care.

Durable Financial Power of Attorney for College Students Studying Abroad

Non-medical, financial powers of attorney can also be helpful for college students. They allow the student’s parents to:

  • Make financial decisions
  • Access bank records
  • Transfer money between bank accounts
  • Access tuition records at college
  • Pay bills on their behalf

This is especially useful for students studying abroad. They can grant their parents a durable financial power of attorney to pay their rent, make sure their tuition is up to date, and transfer funds to them overseas while they are away. A person holding a durable financial power of attorney can also sign on behalf of the person granting it, so parents of college students studying abroad can renew their leases, and address any emergencies that may arise while they are away.

FERPA Forms and Parental Access to Educational Information

Many parents today are used to playing an active role in their children’s education, attending parent-teacher conferences, and getting up-to-date information about their child’s grades through parent portals. However, all that changes when students go off to college. The Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) gives students certain privacy rights – even against their parents. The fact that those parents are paying their tuition makes no difference.

While a durable power of attorney is generally sufficient to access a student’s medical records, it’s best to take an additional step to avoid arguments with the college about the law. As a result, we recommend that the child sign a separate FERPA form and file it with their college or university.

A power of attorney for college students – whether financial or a health care surrogate designation – can be a useful tool, enabling parents to continue to assist their newly adult children in managing their everyday affairs while at college. However, students should be fully informed of their rights, and the powers they are giving their parents, before they sign these documents. While parents may wish to retain control, college students may value the independence that adulthood brings them. It is important that both child and parent discuss the effects of any power of attorney designation with an attorney before signing the documents, although in these situations the child is the firm’s client and has the ultimate decision as to whether or not their parents should be involved in any confidential communications.

At Harrison Estate Law, we can help you and your college student complete an estate plan, or simply a durable power of attorney, so that you can assist them in handling their affairs while they are at college. Please contact us online or via email or call 352-306-3261 to schedule a free consultation. If you or your college student aren’t living close to Gainesville, we are happy to set up a phone or Zoom call.

Categories: Estate Planning