Is Your College Student Protected?

While college students everywhere are getting ready to go back to school, one thing they may not be packing is a durable power of attorney. Every college student should have durable powers of attorney in place before they head off to school.  In general, anyone over the age of 18 should have durable powers of attorney.

A power of attorney allows an individual to authorize another individual (called an agent) to act in his or her place (i.e. on his or her behalf).  Contrary to what most parents may believe, parents do not have the authority to act on behalf of their adult children (age 18 and older) without such documents in place.

In general, there are two types of durable powers of attorney, one dealing with business and financial matters, and the other dealing with health care matters.

The durable power of attorney dealing with business and financial matters will be referred to as the “financial durable power of attorney” throughout the remainder of this article.  The execution of this document eliminates the necessity of a probate court proceeding to have a conservator appointed for an individual who has become disabled and allows the individual to personally choose the person who will act as his or her agent.  Depending on the individual’s wishes, the agent’s authority either begins immediately and continues when the individual becomes disabled or becomes effective only upon the individual’s disability.  Financial durable powers of attorney may be revoked or amended by the individual at any time.

Reasons why college students should have a financial durable power of attorney:

  • It allows an agent, such as one’s parents, to handle banking matters for the student while they are away from home.
  • It allows an agent to sign legal documents on behalf of the student while they are away from home.
  • In the unfortunate event of an unexpected disability, it allows an agent to handle all of the student’s business and financial affairs, including school affairs, while they are unable to do so.

The other type of durable power of attorney deals with health care matters or the “health care durable power of attorney.”  This document permits an individual to name one or more agents (called patient advocates) to make care, custody, and medical and/or mental health decisions for the individual when he or she can no longer make those decisions, and also permits an individual to authorize the withholding or withdrawal of life support systems, and authorize or refuse organ donation.  The designated agent must sign an acceptance of the designation before he or she may act as an individual’s patient advocate.  Further, a patient advocate’s authority under a health care durable power of attorney begins only when two physicians certify that the individual is unable to make health care decisions for him or herself and only extends to decisions the individual could have exercised on his or her own behalf.  It is important to know that the patient advocate’s authority is suspended when the individual regains his or her ability to participate in medical or mental health treatment decisions; and this suspension lasts as long as the individual is able to participate in his or her own medical or mental health treatment decisions.  Finally, an individual my revoke his or her health care durable power of attorney at any time, unless they have waived their right to revoke for a period of up to 30 days.

Main reasons why a college student should have a health care durable power of attorney:  Accidents happen.  If for any reason, the student is unable to make medical or mental health care treatment decisions for him or herself, the student’s designated patient advocate can do so according to the student’s predetermined wishes.

So, just as students are buying their bean bags, lava lamps, coffee makers, books and other school supplies, they should also have durable powers of attorney in place before they leave.

For more information, please contact Melisa M. W. Mysliwiec of Fraser Trebilcock at, 616.301.0800, or 800.748.0436.

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