Articles College

College Game Plan: Moving Out in the Time of COVID-19

By Colin Smith | Contributor

Getting your child off to college is an ordeal.  You just helped them through orientation and registration, making sure they have everything for their dorm and making travel arrangements.  Everything is checked off the list.  But then…There’s COVID-19!  Face masks, a truckload of hand sanitizer, and what else?  What if one of us catches this thing?

After the whirlwind of thoughts, we realize – as the parent of any teenager knows – we can only control so much.  While we guard ourselves against COVID, we should also take precautions to mitigate chaos if we become infected.  With that in mind, as college students prepare for the fall, what do they need, besides face masks and sanitizer? 

Now that they’re legally adults, they can vote, get married, or… (groan) go to jail, get sued, and gamble away tuition money in Vegas.   (Tip for the fretting parent: make sure you control the purse strings.)  Turning 18 means teens can sign legal documents and make their parents butt out of their medical and financial affairs.  Here are five things to consider:

  1. After your child turns 18, doctors are not obligated to discuss your child’s health with you.  A medical power of attorney appoints you (or whomever) as their “agent,” by which you can make medical decisions for them if they cannot.  In the era of COVID, it is best advised to have one of these, give a copy to your child and perhaps a copy to the University’s health center.  If your child is registered at a university health center, make sure you are listed as an emergency contact.
  2. You are not entitled to see any private bank accounts your child has.  You may only have control over their spending by limiting how much you put in their spending account!  A durable power of attorney gives you power to make financial transactions on their behalf in those accounts, among other things. 
  3. This is sobering: if your child gets COVID and winds up on life support, they can decide if they want to remain on that life support.  An advance directive is a document that specifies if they want to continue living on life support.  While this is admittedly over the head of a teenager, it is worth mentioning.
  4. As a practical matter, if your college student is living in an apartment or some other place under a contract, it stands to reason that you want copies of the lease and contact information for the party responsible for the other portions of payment.
  5. It’s not just your child who could catch COVID – you could too.  So, assuming that your estate is in order and you have these same documents for yourself, make sure that your son or daughter knows where they are and how to find them should a crisis ensue. 

These facts are a wet blanket on what can otherwise be a joyous experience.  Remember: with these documents in place, you can have extra peace of mind as your child ventures off to college during this strange reality.

Editor’s Note: Reach Colin Smith at colin@colinsmithlaw.com or call 972.773.9095.  www.ColinSmithLaw.com

ABOUT COLIN SMITH:

Colin Smith obtained a computer science degree from the University of Texas and worked as a software consultant for ten years before returning to the classroom on nights and weekends, earning his law degree from SMU in 2010.  Colin finds that helping families plan for the future is most rewarding and focuses his legal career on estate and business planning, especially living trusts.  Colin is a member of the State Bar of Texas, Dallas Bar Association, and the Dallas Trial Lawyers Association.  In his free time, he enjoys golfing with his children, leading a Cub Scout den, attending University of Texas football and Texas Ranger games, and woodworking.

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