Estate planning for college students isn't something that anyone thinks is a true necessity. Who wants to think that someone who is barely 18 years old and just starting out as an adult could have something devastating happen that could cause their death or incapacitation? Yet, tragic news stories highlight the necessity of estate planning for college students.
Yet estate planning for college students isn't just about the creation of a will. While the most commonly thought of estate planning document is a will (and it should be created, even for a college student), there are others that are also quite important, especially if your child plans to attend college away from home.
Common Estate Planning Documents for College Students
If you have a young adult who is a college student, ultimately it is their responsibility to ensure that estate planning documents are completed (although you can be a great and supportive parent and help them find a law firm that can meet their needs). All 18-year-olds need to have their own estate plan that includes a General Durable Power of Attorney, a Health Care Power of Attorney, an Advance Directive (“Living Will”), and a HIPAA Release. Read more below about each document and why they are important for your future grad to have:
General Power of Attorney
This estate planning document gives a parent the authority to sign documents on their child's behalf and gives the parent access to their student's bank account. However, there are some limitations to this type of power of attorney. If your college student is declared incapacitated, a general power of attorney loses its effectiveness.
Health Care Power of Attorney
This important document allows a parent to make medical decisions in the event their college student is unable to do so. This document goes hand in hand with the Advance Directive and the HIPAA Release. However, a durable power of attorney is necessary if your young adult is declared incapacitated. Otherwise, the health care power of attorney loses its effectiveness.
Advance Directive (Living Will)
An advance directive, also referred to as a living will, outlines the student’s wishes about end of life decisions regarding life-extending medical treatment and organ donation.
HIPAA Authorization (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)
The HIPPA Authorization is a stand-alone document that ensures that you have access to your college student's medical records. In most families, college students remain on their parents' health insurance while in college. Even if your student is on your health insurance policy, you are not entitled to access their medical records unless your child has authorized you to do so. This can be vital especially if your young adult completes a durable health-care power of attorney. In the event that your young adult becomes incapacitated, this HIPAA Authorization can be extra helpful along with the power of attorney, if you are the named agent, in ensuring that you have the information you need to make crucial decisions on your child's behalf.
Why These Estate Planning Documents Are Necessary
All college students should have these estate planning documents prepared and signed before they go to college. It is important to talk to your young adult about privacy and about when these documents would be used, which is typically only in the case of an emergency. Since your child is considered an adult at 18 years old, they are entitled to make their own decisions regarding who their agents will be. Discuss the importance of naming agents who are responsible and who will make good decisions on their behalf. Most young adults understand that their parents are supporting them through college and happily name their parents as agents, but it is important that they understand they don't have to do so.
Estate Planning Help for College Students
If you or your college student need assistance with estate planning, Ball Morse Lowe is happy to help. Our estate planning attorneys provide free consultations. Schedule your free consultation now.