Planning for college often includes setting aside money to pay tuition. Then you’ve got to get packed and ready to head off for the first semester. But of course, 2020 has thrown all kinds of monkey wrenches into the usual rituals that go along with attending college. Many colleges aren’t allowing students on campus yet. This has left many college towns to brace for a fall without all those students on campus to support their local economies.
One constant, however, is that for years I’ve been recommending to my clients that if they have children heading off to college, it’s a good idea to have a healthcare power of attorney for them. It’s not as complex as a full estate plan, but especially with all the things that can happen while they are off at college, it’s a good document to have. And this year, with the possibility of students contracting COVID-19 on campus, a healthcare power of attorney is more important than ever.
What Is A Healthcare Power Of Attorney?
When you’re planning for college, a healthcare power of attorney probably isn’t in your welcome packet. But a Healthcare Power of Attorney spells out your instructions and preferences for your medical care in case you become incapacitated. In it, you choose a person (or persons) to make decisions if you are incapacitated, including end of life decisions. If you’d also like to explain more of your wishes, you may want to consider a living will. A common question I get is,
Why Does A College Student Need One?
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that no one has any idea what’s next. There is no guarantee of what tomorrow holds. It is a hard topic to think about, but one that you need to think about. While it may be scary to think of, not having the document can be scarier. Planning for college will keep you busy enough, this is an easy one to check off your list.
There’s a good chance you are going to college away from your childhood home. It could be a few towns away from home, it could be across the country. But if you catch COVID-19 and become ill, who will speak for you? You may think that the doctor will automatically speak to the right person, but will they? How would the doctor know to contact your parents? And if your parents are separated, which parent should they be speaking to? And do you really want that roommate you just met to be the one making decisions?
From a practical standpoint, without a plan, the hospital may use costly medical treatments that you would not have wanted. You could end up graduating from college under a mountain of medical debt to go along with your student loans.
Do I Need A Lawyer?
Many states provide basic forms for you to fill in. The big concern with any form, of course, is that a form can’t tell you if you’ve filled it out correctly. Even more concerning is paying for a form and then not filling it out correctly. A local lawyer can assist you with putting together the right documents you need before heading to campus. It should not be an expensive or long process, but it’s an important one to check off your to-do list before you leave for the fall. Planning for college has enough other uncertainties this year, you can use a healthcare power of attorney to at least check one box off your list.
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