Is your child going to varsity? Get a Power of Attorney! –

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It is this time of year that we prepare for our “kids” to go to college (in person or virtually). While the college landscape may be very different this year, one thing remains the same … your college student is an adult! Add to this the reality that they are now responsible for managing their own affairs and making their own decisions.

Nobody expected the world to be the way it is and certainly we could only talk about precautionary measures if our child is seriously affected by COVID. But what if your child is in a car accident through no fault of their own? Do you suffer from a head injury during intermural exercise? Just as their parents, will you be able to care for them? Can you access their bank account to pay their bills? Submit your tax return? Renew insurance policies? Bring a lawsuit on their behalf? Unfortunately the answer is no.

What is a power of attorney? A power of attorney is a document that allows someone else to act as your representative and do business on your behalf. There are basically two types of powers of attorney: a financial power of attorney and a power of attorney for healthcare. As the names suggest, a financial attorney designates someone to make legal and financial decisions, while a healthcare attorney designates someone to make your medical decisions.

So what if you don’t have a power of attorney? If you do not have a power of attorney and are unable to work, your loved ones must apply for guardianship to handle your legal and financial matters. This process can be very emotional and costly, especially when you are dealing with increased stress from the situation.

For healthcare decisions, Pennsylvania law allows another person to serve in that capacity without formal process. Under this Act, healthcare professionals will appoint the “reasonably available” person in the following order of priority: 1) spouse (unless divorce is pending), 2) adult child, 3) parent, 4) adult sibling, 5) adult grandchild and finally 6) “an adult who knows the patient’s preferences and values ​​and can judge how the patient would make healthcare decisions.” While having guidance is beneficial, the statue certainly leaves a gray area. The definition of “reasonably available” can certainly raise some questions. What if you are divorced and you and your ex-spouse cannot agree? What if your son arrives at the hospital before you and you are still a few hours away? What if your child recently married and you disagree with the spouse’s choices?

How can we easily avoid these problems? Let your child receive a power of attorney! We hope we never have to use this document, but it is always better to be prepared for it, just like you would when purchasing insurance.

Adrianne Peters Sipes, Esq., Compass Estate Planning & Elder Law, focuses on elder law, estate planning, and closely related areas of activity. To learn more about the company, including our free workshops, visit Or call (814)762-4193 to discuss your specific planning needs.

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