Why Parents Should Consider a POA for their Adult Children

by Andy Gutwein

Turning 18 officially declares someone an adult. And with adulthood comes the right to make important life-changing decisions. From the moment someone has their 18th birthday, they can sign binding contracts, decide where they live, and can take on a whole host of other responsibilities.

With that in mind, parents often overlook what that means from their perspective. Once their child legally becomes an adult, they no longer have access to their child’s medical records, grades, bank account information, and more. Colleges are bound by law not to disclose any information to parents (or others) without the written consent of their students aged 18 and over. This is often surprising and concerning to parents.

While most young adults are perfectly capable of managing their affairs, there may be situations where the young adult still needs help from their parents. What if they are seriously ill or facing a crisis in their life? Or perhaps they are spending a semester studying or traveling abroad. This is where a power of attorney (POA) can be crucial. If the young adult has given their parents authority through a power of attorney, a parent can step in, retrieve private information regarding their child, and help. If not, in most cases the parent will not be able to even speak with college administrators, medical facilities, etc.

For some adult children, turning 18 can be seen as a sign of freedom and they may be hesitant about giving control over their matters. That’s why it’s important for parents to have an honest conversation with their children about the benefits of a POA. Parents often know their child’s medical history better than anyone, and children should take comfort in knowing their health and finances are in the hands of someone they trust if something goes wrong. Still, it’s important parents and children are aligned about their intentions, and they carefully select an estate planning attorney to carry out their mutual wishes.

We have prepared power of attorney documents for many young adults. Sometimes we make the document expire automatically when the young adult reaches age 25, other times we don’t. Regardless, the young adult can revoke the power of attorney at any time (which is a low-risk proposition for the young adult). Each of my children signed a power of attorney when they turned 18. Fortunately, we have not had to use the power of attorney (knock on wood), but it has given our family peace of mind over the past several years.

You might suggest to your clients they consider having their young adult children sign a POA just in case. None of us know what lies ahead. For questions surrounding POA’s or other life planning documents, please give us a call at 765.423.7900.