As we prepare to send our children off to college, we busy ourselves with making sure all of the essentials are accounted for. We make endless trips to Target and other retailers in search of the necessities. Bedding, towels, laundry basket, three drawer plastic storage – check. Laptop, minifridge and noise canceling headphones – check. Credit card (with limit controls!) and reliable transportation – check. We covered it all, right? In the words of the incomparable Lee Corso, “Not so fast my friend!”
There are four essential estate planning documents every college-bound student should have. They are (1) a simple will, (2) a health care power of attorney, (3) a HIPAA authorization, and (4) a durable power of attorney. While none of us want to consider anything unfortunate happening to our children, ensuring our children have these documents in place – before leaving home – can put you in the best position to care for them in the event something does happen.
All college students should have a simple will in place that, at a minimum, disposes of their personal assets in accordance with their wishes. This relieves family members from the burden of determining how their lost loved one would have wanted their belongings to pass and provides them comfort in knowing their loved one’s final wishes are honored.
Powers of Attorney
One of the most important estate planning documents for your college-age child is a power of attorney. This document can grant one or more people legal authority to act on your child’s behalf in the event they are not able to. By designating someone to act on behalf of your child, you can avoid many potential legal problems, such as accessing financial accounts and making medical decisions. Every college student should execute a health care power of attorney and a financial power of attorney.
Health Care Power of Attorney
A health care power of attorney is especially important for college-age children because it allows them to make decisions regarding their own medical care in the event they are unable to do so. The health care power of attorney should be tailored to meet the needs of a college-age student and should include the ability to make decisions regarding treatment, organ donation, and end-of-life planning.
Most often, college students name a parent as their agent. A backup agent (e.g., a second parent) should also be named in the event the first agent is unable to serve.
Financial Power of Attorney
All college students should name an agent to handle their financial affairs by executing a financial power of attorney. There are two types, a springing power of attorney and a durable power of attorney. A springing power of attorney becomes effective (i.e., springs into action) upon the incapacity of an individual. This often requires parents to bring an action in the probate court to declare their child incompetent.
To avoid this unnecessary requirement, we advise clients to execute a durable power of attorney instead. A durable power of attorney is effective immediately, continues in the event a child is rendered incapable of handling his or her financial affairs, and it does not require an adjudication of incapacity. Your child should name a primary and secondary agent to serve in this role.
A HIPAA Authorization goes hand in hand with a health care power of attorney. This document allows you to receive medical information about your child, which you may need to make informed decisions under a health care power of attorney.
When children leave home and head off to college, we have enough to concern ourselves about, not the least of which is ensuring our children are taken care of while they are away. Helping your children put these four essential estate planning documents in place will give you peace of mind in knowing you have everything covered.
If you would like to discuss estate planning for your college-bound or attending child, please contact us today to schedule an appointment and put your mind at ease. Oh, and don’t forget the Easy Mac and ramen noodles – check and check!
The information on this website is made available for education purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide legal advice. By using this website, you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and Fraser & Allen, LLC and that the information provided on this website does not constitute legal advice.