When Does a Child Become an Adult?

By: Calum Welch

[10.20.2020] College is an important time for growth and exploration in your child’s life, but it can also pose many unforeseen challenges. While your child is now an adult in the eyes of the law, there are still steps you can take to help protect them beyond the 18 plus years of care and guidance you have already given them. As your child is signing up for college classes, consider also having them sign a power of attorney.

What is a Power of Attorney?

While most people only hear about Power of Attorney in the context of estate planning, a power of attorney is simply the authorization for any appointed person (the “agent”) to act on another’s behalf (the “principal”). There are several different types of power of attorney. Some only permit the agent to do specific things on behalf of the principal; others only exist for a limited duration or upon some contingent event.

Most commonly, powers of attorney are durable, meaning the agent’s power will continue in the event the principal becomes incapacitated and is unable to make decisions on their own. However, the same general principle applies to all powers of attorney, which provides that the agent must act on behalf and in the principal’s interests. In the context of your college-aged child, this means you will continue doing the same thing you have done their entire life, looking after their health and financial well-being.

Why Should My Child Grant Me Power of Attorney?

At first glance, asking for the power to legally act on your child’s behalf may seem overbearing to any young adult. However, granting you power of attorney offers your child many benefits as well. For instance, if your child loses their wallet during a study abroad trip and needs money wired from their account, a durable general power of attorney will allow you to complete that transaction on their behalf. Moreover, if something comes up with their apartment while they are away, that same power of attorney will allow you also to sign important documents or pay the bills on their behalf. 

Even more important in the age of Covid-19 is the durable medical power of attorney. Without other authorization, HIPAA requires that your child’s medical information will be protected, preventing access from everyone, including you, their parent. However, with a durable medical power of attorney, you would be able to make decisions about their care and ensure they get the treatment they need should they ever fall seriously ill. Rather than leaving you in the dark and your child in the hands of some provider far away, a durable medical power of attorney will ensure you are able to make the best decision for their treatment and care when they are unable to by themself. 

Even though they will be beginning their life away on their own, granting you power of attorney will ensure you are able to make decisions on your child’s behalf when needed, just like you have for their entire life.

What’s Next?

If your child is starting or returning to college, an experienced attorney can help you protect them throughout the most exciting time of their life. To learn more, contact WhitbeckBennett by calling 800-516-3964 or by emailing at clientservices@wblaws.com.

Related: Family Law