College Move-in Day: Is Estate Planning on Your Checklist?

As a parent of a first-year college student, you may be preparing, or have just returned, from the emotional and stressful experience of leaving your son or daughter away at college for the very first time. You helped them pack thoroughly following a checklist of all the essentials: clothes, bedding, towels, laptop, food, cleaning supplies, mini fridge, etc. There is one thing you likely missed on your checklist: estate planning documents for college-aged kids.

As a parent, you may be surprised and dismayed to find that you are not entitled to access medical information, and are not authorized to participate in important decisions regarding your adult children’s healthcare at times of crisis. Although they may still be students, in the eyes of the law they are adults. As such, parents have no automatic standing to know or do anything.

Most college-aged kids have not executed these three essential estate planning documents to properly protect their rights and interests.

(1) Healthcare Proxy

A Healthcare Proxy (or Healthcare Power of Attorney) is a document that names you to make medical decisions if your adult son or daughter is unable to do so for themselves. As the chosen agent, you have the responsibility to work with doctors and health care providers to try to provide your incapacitated adult child with the care that he or she would have wanted.

(2) Springing Power of Attorney

Through a Springing Power of Attorney, your adult child can designate you to make business and financial decisions for them in the event they become incapacitated. This would grant you access to their financial accounts, and enable you to deal with school officials, a landlord, or utility companies on their behalf. Notably, this Power of Attorney does not “spring” into action unless your adult child becomes incapacitated.

(3) HIPAA Release

A third essential element of your adult child’s estate planning College Kit is a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) release. Enacted in 1996, HIPAA is designed to protect the privacy of individuals by not releasing medical information without prior written approval. Without a HIPAA release, as a parent you may face obstacles such as determining whether your child has been admitted to a hospital, the location, and his/her condition. By signing a HIPPA release, your adult child agrees that, in the event medical care is needed, medical personnel are permitted to release information about his or her location and condition to you.

With all the planning and preparation that happens when your child leaves for college, do not overlook one of the most important items your son or daughter should have on their checklist before they leave home as a young adult: estate planning documents for college-aged kids.

Contact Socius Law Firm today for help in preparing a College Kit that includes all the necessary estate planning documents for college-aged kids that can authorize you, as a parent, to know what’s happening, and make decisions on behalf of your child. That way, you can rest a bit easier knowing your child’s rights and interests are protected when they leave the nest.

By Todd Rosenfield

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