College Students Need Estate Plans, Too

July 29, 2016

It’s that time of year when a new group of parents prepare to send their young adult children off to college. Books are purchased. Plans are made. Move in dates are scheduled. Students go off on their own; but, they are not quite grown. As a parent of a college bound child, have you thought about how you will stay informed if your child gets sick or how you will replace a lost debit card?

Many parents assume that because they are paying tuition, assisting financially, or carrying a child on their health insurance policy, they still have the right to make decisions for the child. Although the student may still be a child in the eyes of parents, that eighteen year old is an adult in the eyes of the law and entitled to the same privacy protections you are. College students should have documents in place to ensure that their parents can access information and make decisions for the student if necessary.  There are three documents that every eighteen year old needs: a HIPAA Release; a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare; and a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects private health information and forbids disclosure without authorization. Without a release, a parent might not even be able to determine if a child has been admitted to the hospital. A HIPAA release gives immediate access to medical records.

A power of attorney for healthcare allows your child to name you as an agent to make medical decisions in the event of incapacity. Without this document, you would need to get a guardianship to make medical decisions if your child became incapacitated, event temporarily.

Financial institutions cannot disclose private information even if your child relies on you for financial support. A durable power of attorney for finances will allow you to take care of financial and legal matters such as dealing with landlords, managing student accounts, and signing contracts.

Although the likelihood of needing these documents is low, it is always better to be prepared. Talk to your young adult child about the importance of basic estate planning. Be sure that you can step in when your child needs you most.

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