Why Your College Student Needs a Health Care Proxy and Power of Attorney By Nancy J. Brady, RN, Esq., Partner-Brady & Bader LLP Attorneys at Law

Congratulations to the graduating high school class of 2021!  In New York State, once a person reaches the age of 18, the age at which New York State considers one to be an adult, even though you are the parents, you will no longer be given access to your adult offspring’s health, financial and school records without your child’s consent.  For this reason, coupled with the fact that your graduate may be more than a few hours away from you, it is essential for the young adults to have a valid Health Care Proxy and NYS Power of Attorney in place before they go away to school.

If your child is over the age of 18, it is their choice as to whether they want these documents to be in place at all.  Additionally, once in place, the documents can be revoked at any time.  Therefore, it is important when having conversations about these documents, to encourage completion of the documents so that you can provide assistance in an emergency.  The following is a brief discussion of each document and its importance of each. 

NYS Health Care Proxy- This is the document that allows the principal (in this case your child) to select one agent (representative) as well as one alternate agent to make health care decisions – but only in the event the child cannot speak for him/herself.  No parent wants to be far away from their child in a medical emergency, and unable to get any information about the medical status.  A health care proxy can be crucial in avoiding delays in obtaining information, giving medical consents, and speaking to healthcare providers caring for your loved one. 

NYS Durable General Power of Attorney- This document will allow the principal to appoint representatives to manage their financial matters.  The power of attorney gives many authorities to the agent/agents and can be used for everyday banking matters such as transferring money into or out of their personal accounts, paying bills, etc.  The document can also authorize the agents to obtain medical records if needed.  In the worst-case scenario, if your child is incapacitated – even temporarily- without a valid Power of Attorney document in place, you would not be able to access your child’s records, manage their finances, or legal affairs without petitioning the court for guardianship.  The process of guardianship proceedings involves engaging an attorney, depositions, court hearings, and all the associated delays.  When your child has an emergency, you don’t want to have to be involved with these kinds of delays. 

It's not complicated to have these forms created and executed.  Many clients ask about downloading forms off the internet.  In New York, as in most states, there are specific instructions from the legislature about the completion and execution (signing) of these forms in front of witnessed and notaries.  The New York State Power of Attorney form has very specific language that must be included, and that document must be witnessed and notarized in a very particular manner.  It is recommended that an attorney assist you with these forms.  Any time we have seen downloaded documents, there have always been discrepancies that would not be readily accepted if you needed to use them.  There’s no worse time than during a crisis, or medical emergency to struggle with having what you thought was a valid downloaded form accepted. 

This is for most high school graduates, the first time they will be on their own away from home.  Having the proper documents in place to assist them with finances or medical emergencies is a no-brainer, but in most cases overlooked.  It’s simple enough to get the documents in place before your college student leaves for the next phase of their lives.  We would be happy to help, call our office and speak to one of our attorneys.  We can be reached at 1-718-945-7777.