Does my College Aged Student Need a Power of Attorney?

Three college students walking through campus

As fall arrives and students move off to college, parents often ask whether their student needs a power of attorney (POA) or medical power of attorney form. Power of attorney forms allow an Agent (Parent) to make financial decisions on behalf of the Principal (Student). In other words, by executing a power of attorney form, your student can make it so that you are able to:

  • make financial decisions for them
  • move money out of bank accounts
  • access their tuition records at the college
  • and more.

A medical power of attorney form does the same thing, but for healthcare. Medical power of attorney allows you to:

  • call and get medical records
  • get test results
  • find out if they tested positive for COVID
  • and more.

To answer the question directly, we usually tell parents that they don’t have to have these forms. While it can make life more convenient, it’s not strictly necessary. As long as your student is good about communicating with you, they can do anything that needs to be done once they discuss it with you. POAs can be helpful forms to have, however. Some parents prefer to be able to move money, make decisions, access accounts, and more, without having to bother the student who is currently in classes, and hopefully studying very hard. For a financial POA, it is important to remember that you also have to fill out FERPA (Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act) forms with your college. FERPA gives students certain privacy rights even against family members who are paying college bills. Accordingly, your student will need to fill out forms with the college acknowledging that you have a right to access information for them, even with a valid power of attorney.

Power of attorney forms are very helpful for students who are studying abroad. For example, they can help if the student has an emergency or doesn’t have access to finances while in another country. POAs would allow you to pay bills or legally sign for them. We strongly recommend power of attorney for people who are leaving to go overseas or who are joining the military.

If you have questions about getting ready for your student to go to college, contact Cornerstone Law Firm and meet with one of our Estate Planning attorneys to learn more.