Entering college is the start of an exciting chapter in a young person’s life. It may seem inappropriate or even a little morbid to be thinking about estate planning at that time, but there are documents that are important for a college student to have in place, even if the more traditional elements of estate planning, like assigning asset distribution, aren’t as relevant.
The key here is that once your child becomes 18 years old, they’re a legal adult in the eyes of the government. That means if the unthinkable should happen and your son or daughter should become incapacitated, there is no legal guarantee that you, as a parent, can step in to guide financial and medical decisions unless you have certain planning documents.
This makes power of attorney an essential element to have in place, in two distinct forms. One is for health care decisions—should the worst-case scenario arise, and your child is unable to dictate their medical treatment wishes, health care power of attorney will allow you to make those decisions on their behalf.
By being granted this responsibility through a legal document, you don’t have to worry about challenges or delays to your ability to pursue appropriate care for your child. You may wonder if this is necessary—after all, even without power of attorney in place, a doctor is most likely going to turn to a young person’s parents for care decisions—but this, like so many other aspects of estate planning, is about ensuring an outcome with complete certainty. Legal power of attorney prevents there from being any question about who gets to make health care decisions. That can be especially important if there is conflict between divorced parents or if the college student has a different legal guardian than their biological parents.
A crucial supplement to the health care power of attorney is a HIPAA release. The regulations set in place by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act intend to protect the privacy of patients and their medical records. But if you need to know where your child is being treated or what their prognosis is, this can prevent a hospital from releasing that information to you. A HIPAA release form is a simple addition to your medical power of attorney documents that allows any health care provider to inform you of your child’s condition.
Separately, a durable power of attorney for financial decisions can be helpful if a dire medical condition like a coma persists or if there is anything else that prevents your college-aged child from paying bills like rent and utilities.
For all of these elements and any others that may be of concern to you as your son or daughter heads off for higher education, Family Estate Planning Law Group can guide you through this. Our team helps you arrange all the paperwork so that if something bad does happen, both you and your child are legally protected and you are enabled to dictate care and financial instruction. We can easily integrate this into your own estate plan and update corresponding documents to reflect their status as a legal adult. We, at Family Estate Planning Law Group, help you plan for anything that may happen in life so that you have peace of mind about you and your child’s future.