Dropping your college student off at school is a momentous occasion. All the time, effort, love, blood, sweat, and tears you’ve spent raising your child to be the best version of themselves they can be and now here you are getting ready to move them into their new home away from home—their college dorm.
You’ve packed their extra-long twin-sized comforter, a box of photos from home, their favorite snacks. You’ve researched the best ways to send cookies and care packages. You’ve helped them register for classes and find career services. You’ve done everything you can to help make this transition special and safe for your grown child.
But, there’s something you most likely haven’t even thought of, and it could lead to a huge headache (or worse) for your child:
Who makes medical decisions for your now-adult child?
First, let me tell you why I know firsthand that this matters.
In January 2020, my younger brother who has special needs (then in his early 30’s) suddenly became very sick. It turns out he has a heart condition that caused his heart to not pump enough oxygen to his brain leading to seizures. During his ordeal, the hospital determined that my brother did not have the capacity to sign legal documents.
What happened next should never happen to any family. My mom had to leave my brother’s side at the hospital to go to court and convince a judge that although my brother has only ever lived with my mom, that she has taken care of his every need for over thirty years, that she should be named his legal guardian and not some stranger.
Fortunately, my mom was awarded guardianship, but if my brother had two simple documents in place, the entire ordeal with the courts could have been avoided.
All my brother needed was a Power of Attorney and a Medical Directive (sometimes called a Healthcare Proxy or a Medical Power of Attorney).
Your child needs these documents, too, because now that they’re over the age of eighteen, if a situation arises where they are not able to legally sign documents for themselves, even though you are their mother or father, you are not guaranteed to be able to make decisions for your child. In fact, nobody else would have that authority, either.
A Power of Attorney and a Medical Directive are basic legal documents that grant someone the authority to make financial or medical decisions on your behalf if you are not able to make those decisions yourself.
Your child could name you (or someone else they trust) to make those decisions for themselves so that nobody has to petition a court during an emergency situation when the focus should be on helping your child through that time.
Not having a plan means the courts will make a plan for your child if the need arises. When you are helping your child unpack in their college apartment or dorm, make sure they have with them a legally binding Power of Attorney and a Medical Directive.
The Vaillancourt Law Firm was founded to advocate for families with children and families of loved ones with special needs while also providing services in other areas in which families benefit. There is more to estate planning than just drafting a will. What you'll find at most law offices is a basic will template but not a personalized, holistic estate plan. At The Vaillancourt Law Firm, we take the time to understand your unique circumstances and develop an estate strategy to meet your individual needs. Email or call us today (540-998-7970) to discuss your planning.