The advice come from an attorney in Michigan by the name of Julius Giarmarco whose website can be found HERE. I’m unsure how rules in Michigan differ from any other state but I suspect the fundamental thoughts he offers will apply to whatever state you either live in or where your child is enrolled.
If they have already left for college, put it on your to-do list for Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Before sending your child off to college, have him/her sign a General Durable Power of Attorney and a Patient Advocate Designation. Without them, under Michigan law, parents cannot make financial or health care decisions for a child who has attained age 18 (without probate court approval) – even though the child is still a dependent and still covered under the parent’s health insurance plan.
The General Durable Power of Attorney deals with financial matters. In the event of an unexpected disability, it allows the attorney-in-fact (presumably, one or both of the parents) to handle all of the student’s business, financial and school affairs, while the student is unable to do so. The attorney-in-fact must accept the designation in writing and acknowledge his/her responsibilities.
The Patient Advocate Designation allows the patient advocate to make the student’s health care decisions. Similar to the General Durable Power of Attorney, the designated patient advocate must sign an acceptance before he/she may act.
This document permits the patient advocate to make care, custody, and medical/mental health care decisions for the student when he/she can no longer make those decisions. It also permits the patient advocate to withhold or withdraw life support and to make anatomical gifts.
Compared with other college expenditures, the nominal cost of preparing a General Durable Power of Attorney and a Patient Advocate Designation could turn out to be a good investment when compared to the cost of seeking a probate court approved conservatorship or guardianship.