Kids Going Away to College? Why You Should Include Estate Planning in the Preparation


Last minute shopping for dorm room items; helping your daughter pack everything that is important; beginning already to miss having your teenage daughter around. Signs that you have a child heading to college! Have you done everything to make this transition easy for her? Is there anything else really important that may not even be on your list? Here's something you probably haven't thought about - bring your child to a local estate planning attorney.

If your college-bound child has already turned 18, she is legally an adult and capable of making all of her own decisions. Think about it. Legally, decisions for medical care are hers alone now. If she were to be unconscious from a serious car accident, a parent couldn't authorize medical care without first going to court. And it would be up to a judge to determine if her parent would be an appropriate guardian to make medical decisions. The unfortunate reality is that every year, a significant number of people between 18 and 25 wind up in the nation's hospitals, and their parents are often locked out of critical decisions. Experts recommend that everyone over the age of 18 have a basic estate plan that includes a will or trust, a financial power of attorney, and medical directives that would allow someone they trust to act on their behalf if they aren't able to.

Here are some things to take care of before you drop your child off at college:

  • A FERPA Release: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is designed to protect college students’ privacy, but it can leave parents locked out in an emergency. A properly worded release allows school officials to talk with you and release your child's records to you.

  • A HIPAA Authorization: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was designed to protect a patient's privacy. Consider having your child sign an authorization so that - just in case - any necessary doctors can talk to you about your child's condition, care, and treatment.

  • A Durable Financial Power of Attorney: This is a legal document that allows you to take care of your child's checking or savings accounts, pay bills, etc., if your child is unable to - whether due to illness or even just location (for example, if the school is on the other side of the country).

  • A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare: Like the financial version, this allows you to handle medical decisions for your child if your child is unable to do so.

  • A Will: At first glance, this may seem a little silly for the average broke college kid. In our digital age, there are some hidden complexities. For example, on average, an email account today is tied to 130 or more online accounts, each with their own username and password. Does your child have thoughts about who should manage their social media and email accounts, receive valuable gaming accounts, and close down other apps and accounts? It’s also a great time in your young adult child’s life to instill responsibility by encouraging them to think about planning in the long term.

We've been helping families attain peace of mind for years. Reach out to us today to protect your new college student and your family.

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