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Issues to Consider when Your Child Goes off to College

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By Elizabeth Boehmcke

It’s February, folks. That means that college acceptance letters will soon be arriving via email, snail mail or however they get around these days. Once the initial euphoria has worn off and you know that your child is definitely going to college and you have made peace of a sorts with how you are going to pay for that, take a moment to consider some other items for your to-do list before your child packs up and leaves this summer. If your child is eighteen (18), he/she is now a legal adult. Believe me, I know it is hard to grasp sometimes when you look at your newly minted adult and try to comprehend how it is possible that he/she could be an adult while you are listening to the same implausible explanation that you have heard too many times to count for why they are late, why their homework is undone, or why they can’t manage to clean their room. While you may find it laughable that your child is considered an adult under the law, it is not so laughable when you think through the consequences. Legally speaking, you no longer have the right to control your child’s finances or make healthcare decisions for him/her. You have no right to speak with your child’s doctor to get information about his/her health conditions. This is downright frightening for most parents, especially when you consider that your child may be on his/her own hundreds of miles away and you know for a fact that he/she can’t remember the time of day, much less be able to recite his medical history for a doctor.

There is an answer to this problem. We recommend that young adults execute general durable powers of attorney, advanced medical directives and HIPAA releases, so that their parents have the power to act as surrogate decision makers while their children are off at college.

The power of attorney would allow a parent, acting as an agent, to assist his/her child with bill-paying to make sure that tuition is paid or that scholarship forms are appropriately filled out. It would allow the parent, as agent, to access the child’s bank and credit card accounts to help him/ her better manage money. Being an adult does not automatically confer wisdom about handling money and maintaining a budget. Being an involved parent, on the other hand, does allow you to guide and instruct your child and, if necessary, to jump in before a little problem becomes a huge problem. If you do not have access to your child’s accounts and financial information, you may not be able to assist your child when they hit that first, inevitable, bump in the financial road. Imagine your frustration at calling the bursar’s office to check on their receipt of an important check only to be told that they cannot tell you anything and you have to round-up your child to get the information or worse, get the child to appear at the bursar’s office to ask the question himself. Even the most responsible ones will be hard to find as they experience the freedom of college living.

An advance medical directive and accompanying HIPAA release is an important part of the equation as well. While many think of an advance directive as being limited to end-of-life decisions, this is only one part of a well-drafted advance directive. In the case of young adults, it serves a vital function of appointing an agent to make health care decisions for them if they cannot do so themselves. The HIPAA release authorizes a doctor to communicate with a parent about the child’s medical condition so that, even if the child is not wholly unable to make a decision, it allows a faraway parent the ability to participate with the doctor and the child in making important decisions. If the child cannot make his/her own decisions, either because the child has been seriously injured in an accident or has psychiatric or dependency issues, most parents and children would want the parents to be informed of the situation and to be involved in the decision-making process. Nothing could be scarier than calling a hospital only to be told that privacy laws prevent the doctor from speaking to you about your child.

By executing these documents on attaining the age of eighteen, young adults and their parents can feel secure in the knowledge that the safety net on which they have all relied since birth will remain in place until such time as the children are really ready to be totally on their own. The vast majority of children will likely leave these documents in place until they are ready to do some estate planning on their own. And that is not a bad thing. Come see the attorneys at the Hook Law Center – we can help you with all life’s transitions from the birth of a new baby to the baby leaving the nest, from marriage to divorce, from planning for retirement and long-term care to the death of a loved one. We’ve got you covered.

Kit KatAsk Kit Kat – Westminster Dog Show

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, what was new at the Westminster Dog Kennel Club Show that was held on February 13-14, 2017?

Kit Kat:  Well, a couple of things were new this year. In my opinion, the biggest news was that cats were included for the first time this year. The cats weren’t actually in the show, but they were part of a ‘Meet the Breeds’ event which took place on February 11, 2017 before the actual dog show. At this event, dogs and cats were featured in booths in which the owner could have them displayed with information about the animal—where they originated from, etc. Booths could be decorated any way the owner chose. It made for an interesting event with both cats and dogs dressed up in all their finery!

Also, new to the Westminster Dog Show were 3 new breeds. This helped expand the number of participants to nearly 3,000 dogs. Wow! Can you imagine that many dogs in one place? Anyway, the 3 new breeds were: the American Hairless Rerrier, the Pumi, and the Sloughi. Can’t tell you much about 2 of the breeds, but the Pumi looks to me like a miniature poodle with a squarer face. Actually, Wikipedia defines it as a herding terrier from Hungary of small/medium size. It definitely is a good-looking dog, who I am sure will increase in popularity due to its compactness and personality.

So, kudos to the Westminster Dog Kennel Club! They are showing an inclusiveness which animal lovers can’t help but enjoy! (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/02/01/ westminster-dog-show-going-cats/97329506/)

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Posted on Monday, February 13th, 2017. Filed under Newsletter.