By Lauri Salverda |
As parents, we do everything we can to get our children prepped for college. We keep an eye on the ACTs, SATs, and the AP classes. We feel the stress of the early decisions and early admissions. We’re there for all the tears and the triumphs—knowing that we’ve done everything in our power to send our little adults into the world as ready as they can be.
As a financial planner, it may be expected that I delve into the many new fiscal responsibilities young adult children will face. Learning how to minimize student debt, manage a budget, and avoid impulse credit card applications are important touchstones. I encourage these conversations with all my heart. However, I’d like to discuss something that is oft overlooked. Something that had never occurred to me until it was right in front of my nose.
My daughter, the eldest of four, went to college halfway across the country. The distance, in and of itself, is enough to wrack some nerves. But we confident that we had done everything we could to get her ready for her adult wings. (And we kept our fingers crossed tightly for those first few months.) Her roommate was in a similar situation, attending college far away from home, but was not quite ready.
This particular young woman had health issues that ballooned exponentially in those first few months of college. She had issues with alcohol dependence and an eating disorder. Both were serious issues on their own, but the combination led to a complete physical and mental breakdown within a few months.
Fortunately, her friends intervened and notified the medical staff at the college. She was admitted on a Friday night to a local hospital, against her will, for a psychological evaluation. It was being viewed as a life-or-death situation. Her parents were notified by the college and were on the first flight out.
Once her parents arrived on the scene, they were confronted with an unexpected truth. Their daughter was an adult in the eyes of the law, leaving them powerless to intervene or even visit with their daughter. This is a terrible place for loving parents to be. By Monday, they were able to meet with a judge and receive a health care power of attorney for their daughter. It was a simple piece of documentation that allowed them to legally care for their daughter and make decisions about her health care in her best interest.
As parents, there are legal and medical things to consider when your child becomes an adult that are commonly overlooked. There are some simple things that can safeguard your child as he or she transitions into adulthood. These documents can also begin a meaningful conversation and open the lines of communication.
A Healthcare Directive or Power of Attorney for Healthcare allows a parent to act on the child’s behalf in case of a medical emergency. This simple document can be found online from many state and hospital websites. After a quick trip to a notary, you will be able to assist your child in medical decisions when they are deemed unable.
A Durable Power of Attorney for Finance is another important document. This gives financial power to the parents or another third party should something happen to your child and they cannot freely manage their finances. We see this commonly used when a child is studying abroad or heads across the border for Spring Break, but it can be equally handy when they lose their wallet. Consider it a backup plan for when there is an obstacle between them and their funds.
Knowing what we do now, each of our children will be sent off to college with more than their shower shoes and extra-long sheets. We’ll nudge them out of the nest knowing that their parents are legally prepared to act in their best interest should the situation arise.
Lauri Salverda is a Certified Financial Planner with an office in Mendota Heights. She has been working with individuals and families to help them reach their financial goals since 2001. She has been a devoted mother since 1991.