Young adults across America are coming home for the holidays. While the season may look different this year, and many of us will have to forego or adjust our time-honored traditions, we can still take time to discuss things we care about together and prepare for the year ahead.
One of those important matters that the end of the year provides a perfect opportunity to address is setting up a young adult power of attorney form for a college age child.
In this post, we cover what a young adult power of attorney is, why you need one and address one of the most common questions people ask – who do I name as my agent? We’ll also answer a question we are often asked – should I name more than one agent, and if I do, what does it mean for the second agent to be “shared” versus “alternate”?
Who should I name as an agent on my child’s young adult power of attorney form?
Let’s start with what an agent is. Our young adult POA form asks you to select a health care agent and an agent for financial decisions. Many people ask who they should name for this important position.
The easy answer is someone you and your child know and trust. The agents should know you well, be competent to make decisions for you, and ideally, share your values, at least in so far as it relates to decision-making.
For young adults, the agents are often the person’s parents. However, that is not always the case. There may be situations where another individual is more suitably qualified. An agent should be someone you have total faith in to carry out your wishes. That is the most important qualification. The only legal requirement is that the named agent be an adult. In most states, that is someone who is at least 18 years of age. In some states, that person must be at least 19 years old.
You have the freedom to select different people to handle your health care and financial decisions, should you be unable to do so yourself. This is helpful as you may have someone in mind who you trust to make medical decisions, but do not for finances, or vice versa.
Whoever you name, it’s best to let the person(s) know that you have named them as your agent, so they aren’t surprised when they need to step in and make decisions for your child. Again, in many cases, the agent(s) will be the child’s parent.
Why must I designate two agents?
When you create a young adult POA through Mama Bear Legal Forms, step three asks you to designate two health care agents; step five asks you to create two agents for financial decisions.
We are often asked why our form prompts you to designate a primary and backup agent. The reason is simple: because anything could happen, you need a backup. Consider an example.
You complete a young adult POA, naming the child’s mother as the health care and financial agent. The child and his mother are driving together and are tragically injured in a car accident. The child’s father rushes to the hospital to inquire about the health of his son and wife and is told he is not authorized to receive information about their health status or make decisions since he is not a health care agent for the child.
It is a sound practice to have more than one trusted individual named as an agent on your child’s power of attorney form. Legally, you may name as many agents as you like. We set the number at two because more than that tends to become unwieldly to manage.
The more agents you have, the more potential for conflict there is. Every time you add an agent, the potential for agents to disagree on decisions increases. Similar to flying a plane, a captain needs a co-pilot, but you would never expect to have seven people in the cockpit.
Doing so would endanger the flight. The same is true for the agents named on your child’s POA – one is not enough and three can be too many.
What does “shared” vs. “alternate” mean and which should I choose?
When you complete your young adult POA through Mama Bear Legal Forms, you will be asked to name your agents as either shared or alternate. Here’s what each term means.
Shared means that either of the two agents can make decisions. In other words, they “share” responsibility. This is helpful for many reasons. Consider an example.
Your child has fallen into credit card debt and both you and your wife are named as agents for making financial decisions for your young adult child. A creditor calls your child to discuss terms of his account. Your wife is in a meeting and is unable to respond. Since you are also named as an agent, you pick up the phone and handle the situation.
That convenience is made possible by naming the second agent as shared. Naming an agent as shared means either one of the two agents have the power to act. They are not co-agents, but rather two separate people who have the authority to act. Shared agents should talk together, confer with one another and agree on decisions being made, yet maintain the ability to act independently.
When you name the second agent as “alternate” you create a situation where the first agent is the only one who can act for your child. The second agent would only have the power to act if the first agent is incapacitated, dead or unavailable and cannot serve.
Sometimes, one agent is not available and a check needs to be signed. Or, make a decision at a doctor’s appointment. Naming a second agent as “shared” provides flexibility for agents to work together, efficiently and conveniently, in the best interest of the child.
What is a young adult power of attorney and why does my college student need one?
Having dealt with the particulars of filling out a young adult POA form, let’s consider a more general question – why would you need a POA in the first place? Many parents ask this question, and it’s a good one. A young adult power of attorney form is an essential legal document that all young people need when they reach 18 years of age.
Most parents assume that they have automatic authority to handle decisions for their adult children, should they encounter an unexpected illness or accident that leaves them incapacitated.
However, once a child turns 18 parents no longer have the authority to make medical or financial decisions for their children.
A power of attorney form and healthcare power of attorney form authorizes parents to help their adult children manage financial, legal and healthcare decisions as needed.
Without these critical forms in place, if your child suffers an accident or gets into debt while away at school, you will not be able to converse with banks, doctors or insurance companies on their behalf.
This is one powerful reason to put a power of attorney form in place for your child. Another reason is maturity. There may come a time when your child finds himself or herself in a situation that they are ill-equipped to handle.
It is easy to fall into credit card debt in college and common for college students to need help from parents to make the right financial moves to put themselves back on solid ground.
Without a power of attorney in place, parents are hamstrung as to how to help their children and hindered in their efforts to advocate for their best interests.
Every adult child should have a durable power of attorney for health care and the same for financial matters because these forms designate who is authorized to handle medical and financial decisions in an emergency or when a child gets in over their head.
Without these forms, a state may appoint a guardian or conservator for you. Not only is it possible for it not be the parent, but the process can be complex and expensive. Power of attorney forms eliminate this concern.
Get Your POA Package Now
Are you ready to get your Young Adult POA Package? Mama Bear Legal Forms provides law firm quality, state-specific documents that are easy to create, simple to download and incredibly affordable.
Our Young Adult Package includes a power of attorney form that is legally valid in all states and includes guidance on how to complete your form.