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Estate planning documents every college student should have in place

Estate planning documents every college student should have in place

By Elizabeth Hunt

With young adults heading off to college, there’s one area that might get overlooked in the shuffle of all the other important planning and preparation that’s taking place. No matter how close you are when your child leaves home, it’s important to remember that, legally, you may not hold the same rights in your relationship that you did for the first 18 years of your child’s life. As a legal adult after attaining the age of 18, your child should have in place several legal documents that will allow you to provide support and obtain information if something unexpected happens to your child.

It’s important to have these conversations now with your college student about the safeguards they should put into place before going out on their own or heading to college. An estate planning attorney can provide guidance on matters pertaining to your child’s physical health and financial well-being.

Once you’re no longer your child’s legal guardian, matters pertaining to his or her health cannot be disclosed to you without your child’s consent. So if, for example, your child has an accident and becomes temporarily incapacitated, there would be no way for you to obtain that consent and you would likely be denied access to his or her medical information. Encourage your child to complete a HIPAA release, which is a medical form that designates who is allowed to receive information about an individual’s medical status when care is needed. If you’re not named on their HIPAA release, you will face challenges in obtaining any medical updates about your adult child, including information like whether or not they have been admitted to a hospital.

No one wants to think about worst case scenarios, but your child also needs to decide who will manage their healthcare decisions if they’re unable to do so on their own. This is done by designating a healthcare proxy or agent. Without one, the decision about who makes choices regarding your child’s medical matters may be uncertain.

In addition to naming someone to manage medical issues, your child should ensure his or her financial matters are taken care of if he or she is unable to handle them, either due to mental incapacity or physical limitations such as studying abroad. It is thus advisable for you (or another trusted relative or friend) to be named agent under your child’s financial power of attorney so that you can assist in managing things like financial aid, banking, and tax matters.

Your child is facing plenty of changes at this time, but you can help by assisting in the preparation of these important documents. If you have questions, our estate planning attorneys are here to help.