This blog article is for all the young adults leaving for school this fall. Congratulations! It is an exciting time for you! However, there are a couple of things that are likely not on your packing list, but that you should include in your bags before you leave home. Parents, you may want to read this, too!
I remember when I left for college. I couldn’t wait to leave home, go to the “big city” and start a new life. My mind was full of excitement and thoughts of all the new people I would meet and new concepts I would learn. In the summer before leaving for college, my focus was on all the things I would need to live in the dorm on campus four hours away from home… school supplies, room décor, clothes, etc. Three of my older brothers had also gone off to school, so we felt we had a good handle on everything I should take with me. I worked full time that summer so I could buy things I wanted that weren’t necessities.
My parents were proud that their first honor student and eldest daughter decided to leave home but stay in Ohio to attend school. They were concerned that after viewing a half-dozen colleges, I selected the University of Cincinnati: it was such a big school in such a big city and so far from home. You see, I grew up in a town of 150 people, most of whom were related to me somehow.
Growing up in that environment, we didn’t give much thought to what would happen if something happened. There was always someone – a neighbor, an uncle or aunt, a sibling – around if someone got hurt, or sick, or in trouble. I was lucky; nothing happened.
I had friends my freshman year, however, who weren’t as lucky. One was t-boned by a drunk driver as he left his job off campus. Another fell out of a window after drinking a little (ok, a lot) too much. Both were hospitalized. Both are ok. However, they did not have the two legal documents that we recommend that you have in place. Without a Power of Attorney or a Health Care Directive, their parents were not able to coordinate their care, get updates as to their status – and except for a card in their wallet that listed who to call in case of an emergency – their parents would not have been notified that they were injured!
A Power of Attorney is a legal document that designates who you want to have the power to act for you regarding property or financial matters. This person is your Attorney in Fact; they do not have to be an attorney, nor do they have to be your parents, but they do have to be a competent adult over age 18. You may specify your Attorney in Fact and a Successor, what powers they have, the duration, etc. It is important to note that the Power of Attorney is effective right away – even though you can still act for yourself, your Attorney in Fact may also act for you once it is signed.
A Health Care Directive is a legal document that defines your wishes in terms of health care in the unlikely or unfortunate instance that you are unable to speak for yourself. The document designates a Health Care Agent, who is given the ability to make medical decisions regarding your care. The document also outlines your wishes in terms of care you want, and don’t want, to receive. Again, your Health Care Agent may be any competent adult.
So, congratulations on beginning your journey into adulting. In addition to all the planning you’ve done to get to this point, please consider planning for the unexpected. You have the power to make your own choices. We recommend you make them before you need to make them. Welcome to adulting.
Trish Phillips is a Paralegal with rb LEGAL in Golden Valley, Minnesota. rb LEGAL provides compassionate estate planning and business legal services solutions. If you would like more information about this topic, or have other related legal questions, please contact us at 763-582-1414 to schedule a complimentary 30-minute telephone consultation.