How to Protect Your Child in College

 

Consider the following story. 

A child leaves his parents’ Texas home to attend college in Florida. When he is 19 years old and still attending school in Florida he is in a serious car accident, requiring a Care Flight to the nearest trauma center. His parents are notified by a school friend and immediately leave Texas for Florida. Upon arriving at the hospital in Florida, the doctors will tell the parents nothing about the status of their child’s condition or injuries.

After several days in recovery, the hospital will not release the child upon the parents’ request to relocate him to a rehabilitation facility in Texas. The child’s landlord will not allow the parents to break the child’s lease. The parents return home to institute a very costly and, at this point, a time-consuming, guardianship proceeding. They return to Florida with their stack of court papers, collect their child, take care of his lease arrangement and return home to Texas for months of physical therapy and rehabilitation.

What happened? Weren’t they his parents? Couldn’t they speak for their own child?

Legally, the answer is “NO.” While the thought of something happening to our children that might leave them unable to speak for themselves is a difficult topic to consider, much less fully discuss with them, we think it is an important topic to address—before your children leave home.

The legal age of majority in Texas, and in many other states, is 18. While most of us who have long surpassed the age of 18 still consider an individual of this age to be a “child”…legally, that “child” is an adult who is responsible for his or her own decision-making. Absent proper estate planning, there is no legal right for parents to make decisions for their children after they attain the legal age of majority.

We strongly urge our clients to have documents prepared that will allow the parents to act like “mom and dad” in the event of an emergency situation, disability or other incapacity—whether temporary or permanent.

We recommend having the following douments prepared:

  • Statutory Durable Power of Attorney
  • Medical Power of Attorney
  • HIPAA Authorization
  • Directive to Physicians

Having these documents in place will save you time, money, and stress. Call our office for a complimentary consultation.