Most schools begin classes in September, including colleges and universities. If you have college aged children, you need to consider having an estate planning attorney create some basic documents to ensure their continued protection.
Although an 18-year-old still has lots to learn from his/her parents and the world, the law considers that person a legal adult, no longer under their parents’ control. Nevertheless, every year roughly 250,000 people between 18 and 25 end up hospitals throughout the U.S. In many cases, the parents of these young people may be locked out of critical decisions regarding their “adult” child’s healthcare.
I recommend everyone over the age of 18 years old have a basic estate plan in place such as a Will or Trust, a Durable Power of Attorney and a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare and Healthcare Directive. Although the Will hopefully is never used at a young age, the Powers of Attorney routinely are. Such documents give you the legal authority to act on your adult child’s behalf if he or she is unable to do so (e.g., injured, in the hospital, out of the country, etc).
Before sending your children to college, here are 5 basic documents you want to consider having an attorney draft for your college-age child:
- FERPA Release
Many parents with first-time college aged children learn the hard way about the privacy protection afforded to college students under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA prevents a parent from receiving any information from school about a student, including grades, healthcare and more. It doesn’t matter if you are the parent or that you are paying the bills. A properly drafted and signed release allows school officials to speak with you and release your child’s records to you, including use of any school healthcare services.
- HIPAA Authorization
You’ve likely heard of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) designed to protect a patient’s privacy. If your child is over 18 years of age, HIPAA prevents doctors from speaking with you about their healthcare. A properly drafted HIPAA authorization document will ensure doctors can continue to speak you about that child’s condition, care and treatment.
- Durable Financial Power of Attorney
This document allows you, the parent, to have access to and handle your child’s finances should the need arise. E.g., to pay their bills, handle their checking account and credit cards, etc. This is frequently used when a child has a prolonged illness or injury or if the student is otherwise unable to do so (such as a trip to a foreign country for study abroad).
- Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare and Healthcare Directive
This legal document allows you or a designated person to make medical decisions for your child in the event he/she is unable to make his/her own decisions, and also sets forth their wishes and directives for treatment.
- A Will
While you may think that a Will is an unnecessary document for a young college student, and everyone hopes you’re correct, it is still worth your consideration. A Will can designate who can manage and/or close bank accounts, social media accounts, email accounts, gaming accounts and similar “properties”.
To learn more about how these documents can protect you and your college student, feel free to call or email me directly at my office at 314-727-0163 or contact me online.