The end of summer is approaching, and with it, college students will be making their way back onto campus, or moving away to college for the first time. While the first thing on your mind may be helping your child pack or arranging family gatherings before your child leaves for school, there are some important estate planning matters that you should keep in mind during this time.
Why Should You Discuss Estate Planning with Your Child Before College?
Some common misconceptions are that estate planning is only for the wealthy and only for people of a certain age. In reality, estate planning is for people of all ages and financial statuses.
While they will always be your child, and you may not think of them as an “adult” at age 18, legally, once your child turns 18 years of age, he or she is considered an adult. This fact is critical as it relates to estate planning and your child going away to college, as this means you will no longer have legal rights to obtain information about them, such as medical, educational or financial information.
This can create a disastrous situation should your child become incapacitated in any way while away at college. Even though you are the parent, this does not give you automatic rights to access information about your child. Without the proper estate planning documents in place, you may find yourself restricted from making crucial decisions for your child in an emergency situation.
What Estate Planning Documents Does Your College-aged Child Need?
There are several estate planning documents that you should make sure your child has in place before they go away to college – or as soon as possible. The following estate planning documents should all be discussed with your child:
- Power of Attorney
- Health Care Proxy
- HIPAA Waiver
- FERPA Waiver
Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney is a legal document that will allow your child to designate someone to make important decisions on their behalf should they become no longer able to do so on their own. This can include both financial and medical decisions in the case of a Durable Power of Attorney. It is important to note that there are several different types of Power of Attorney documents, including Medical Power of Attorney (also referred to as a Health Care Proxy) and Financial Power of Attorney. As referenced above, these can be combined in a Durable Power of Attorney.
Health Care Proxy
Specifically, with a Health Care Proxy, your child can designate a trusted person to handle medical decisions for them in the event they become incapacitated and unable to do so.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted in 1996 in part to protect sensitive medical information. By your child signing a HIPAA waiver, he or she can allow you to access medical information about them in an emergency.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was enacted in 1974 to regulate access to education records. In order to access educational records for your child, he or she will need to sign a FERPA waiver. Your child signing a FERPA waiver is also important in that medical records from college health clinics are considered academic, meaning the records cannot be accessed with a HIPAA waiver alone.
Does Your College-aged Child Need a Will?
In addition, although you may not feel your child has many assets at a young age, it would be in your best interest to discuss a Last Will and Testament with them. Your child can designate who should receive any valuables in the event of their death, and can make changes to their will in the future if need be.
If you need assistance creating or updating any estate planning documents, we are here to help. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you.
For more information regarding estate planning matters, view our resources page, which includes previous blog posts, newsletters and our informative webinar series.