If you are preparing to send your son or daughter off to college to pursue higher education, you may be wondering how their first semester of school will go. During this exciting new chapter in your family’s life, the last thing you may be thinking about is estate planning for your college-aged child. While your child may not have any assets (yet), once he or she turns 18, your child is considered an adult in the eyes of the law. Before your kids go away, have a frank conversation with them about how much information — including grades, finances, health records, etc. — you will be able to access.
Basic, Yet Crucial, Estate Planning Documents
Before your child is college bound, you should consider completing the following basic estate planning documents:
Healthcare Directive with HIPPA Authorization — While most parents assume when their child is away to college and is in need of medical attention (including mental health care) they will be immediately contacted and will have full rights to make decisions, this is simply not the case. Once your child becomes 18 years of age, he or she is protected by HIPPA laws. This means health care professionals cannot provide medical information without your child’s signed consent, even though your child may still be on your health insurance. If there is no signed HIPPA release at the time, then you may need a court order to be able to access your child’s health information. A Healthcare Directive appoints you as an agent that is able to make medical decisions on behalf of your child in the event he or she becomes ill or incapacitated.
It is important to remember that each university or college may have its own form of medical release documents as well. While these documents are no substitute for a Healthcare Directive, signing the school’s documents in advance will likely speed up the process in assisting your child in his or her healthcare needs.
Power of Attorney — similar to a healthcare directive, a durable power of attorney appoints an agent to make financial and legal decisions on behalf of the individual. This can allow you to have access to your child’s finances including bank accounts, scholarship funds, rental agreements, and insurance matters to name a few.
Prepare Ahead of Time
Many parents are actively involved in their college-aged children’s care and responsibility. Nonetheless, turning 18 changes the legal landscape when it comes to your rights to address your child’s needs. Preparing a legal plan for your college student ahead of time will greatly reduce any legal hurdles you may face as a family while he or she is attending college. Before sending your child off to college, talk to a certified specialist in estate planning, trust and probate law to help you craft a plan that protects your most valuable asset — your children.