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Off to college: Estate planning for parents of students

On Behalf of | Sep 3, 2021 | Estate Planning |

Your child going off to college can be seen as the beginning of their adult life. It may seem like a strange time to think about the end of their life, but that is what you must do if you want to protect them from the unpredictable issues that may arise when they leave home.

Estate planning is important for college students, and as a parent of someone heading off to school, you may need to speak up and help your child get the right documents in place for their protection while at school.

Why does a college student need an estate plan?

Realistically, your young adult child likely doesn’t have much personal property that they have to worry about distributing in the event of their death. That’s not the focus of estate planning for a college student anyway.

The big issue is what happens in a medical emergency. As a parent, you know that you have a lifelong bond with and duty to your child. However, your legal rights as a parent change drastically when your child reaches the age of 18. You no longer necessarily have the right to access your child’s medical records or make any sort of decision on their behalf if they experience a medical emergency.

Incapacitation due to a fistfight or a car crash might leave your child in the hospital for weeks, with you unable to influence the care they receive.

What documents should a college student include in their estate plan?

The two most important documents young adults can include in their estate plan are an advance health care directive and HIPAA paperwork. These documents ensure that parents can have access to their medical records.

The advance health care directive can name someone to handle medical decisions in the event of incapacitation, while the HIPAA form ensures that doctors can communicate with that individual about the patient’s condition and care. Some people also choose to include a durable power of attorney that can continue to hold legal authority even if the young adult suffers a permanently incapacitating injury of some sort.

Talking about estate planning with your new college student may not be fun, but it will protect them and the rest of your family from a worse outcome in an already tragic situation.