Updated: Jun 22
Sarah was an eager 19 year old when she started her first year of college at the University of Georgia. Sarah was pre-med and had known for years she was going to be a pediatrician. Her whole life was in front of her and she was beyond excited to be joining her family's legacy of attending UGA. As far as anyone could tell, she was a normal carefree college freshman, dedicated to her studies, to her family, and to her friends. At the beginning of the year, she signed a lease for the school year for an apartment within walking distance of campus. Every morning she walked to campus; every evening she went for a mile run.
No one could have predicted how Sarah's life would change one evening. While out for a run, a drunk driver ran a stop sign and hit her. She was found unresponsive on the scene and was rushed to St. Mary's Hospital. The Emergency Room doctors were able to stabilize her, but due to the head injuries, she was put into a medically induced coma. No one knew how long her stay in the hospital would last, but it was clear that when she was released, she was going to need to return home with her parents.
While in the hospital, her father tried to take care of things for her. For him, it was a way to stay busy. He couldn't help her medical care, but he could take care of financial things which needed to be resolved, or at least that's what he thought. He went to the school to look into withdrawing her from classes only to get stonewalled by the university. Since she didn't have a Power of Attorney naming her father as her agent, the school had no ability to talk with him. He had no authority to seek information from them. He explained the situation. Everyone said they understood, but privacy regulations prohibited them from telling him anything about her education.
He went to the management company of her apartment to talk with them about breaking the lease. Same problem. The only person with the authority to talk to the university or the leasing company was sitting in a hospital bed unable to act.
Situations like this are all too common. Once a 'child' turns 18, they instantaneously gain all legal rights of being an adult. Similarly, the child's parents lose all legal rights of being a parent. No longer does a parent have the right to seek information about their child merely due to the familial relationship. Instead, if a parent is going to retain some of the authority to handle their child's affairs on behalf of the child, legal documents must be in place granting the parent that authority.
The document which grants this authority is called a Power of Attorney. A Power of Attorney is a legal document which grants a third party, called the Agent, the authority to act on behalf of the person granting the authority. Although a Power of Attorney is a simple document, it is an incredibly powerful and important document for all adults to have. Whether you, or your child, have a substantial amount of assets, or no assets to manage at all, the Power of Attorney grants the Agent the authority to manage all financial affairs, and as such, is a vitally important tool in your planning tool box.
If your child is getting ready to go off to college, or for that matter is staying at home for a break year, we highly recommend that you advise them about the importance of having a Power of Attorney. If you would like to talk about getting a Power of Attorney drafted for your college student, please give us a call at (678) 340-3223 and we would be glad to assist you!
Regardless of where you are, and where your student will be, this is a highly important issue. If you are in Florida, we recommend you contact Stephen Burt of S.K. Burt Law about how he can assist you and your student. He can be reached at (407) 308-2936 or www.skburtlaw.com/.