Sending a child off to college is an exhilarating experience, and while you bustle around making plans and buying dorm supplies, your heart may be bursting with emotion. Maybe you’re prouder than words can express, but you’re also a little afraid. How can you make sure your child will be safe at their new home away from home? Matching sheets can only take you so far. What else can you do?
Here’s something that may not be on your to-do list, but this small move can make a big difference: Bring your child to an estate planning attorney.
You’ve probably focused on the fact that, having graduated from high school, your child is an adult now. She may still want you at her side if she gets sick, but legally, decisions for medical care are hers alone now. This means that 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 person 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. Therefore, experts recommend that everyone over the age of 18 have a basic estate plan that includes a Last Will and Testament or Revocable Living 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 send you child to 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 let you access your child’s records.
- A HIPAA Authorization: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act protects patient privacy, but consider having your child sign an authorization so that—just in case— doctors can talk to you about your child’s condition, care, and treatment.
- A 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 distance.
- A Healthcare Power of Attorney: Like the financial version, this allows you to make medical decisions for your child if your child is unable to do so.
- A Last Will and Testament or Revocable Living Trust: At first glance, this may seem a little silly if your child has no assets (most don’t). But in our digital age, on average, an email account is tied to 130 or more online accounts, each with their own username and password. Does your child have thoughts about who should manage or close down their apps, social media accounts, and email 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 let us help you protect your new college student from whatever the future may bring.