Updated: Jul 18
You're never too young to need some simple estate planning. Here's what every college student should have.
As schools let out for the Summer and high school graduates prepare for college in August, for many families, life is about to change.
With universities opening across the country, many of us are anxious about sending our children to their respective campuses. Each year, hundreds of thousands of incoming freshmen leave home and get their first taste of independent life as an adult. Regardless of how long it takes a new college student to get comfortable in his or her new way of life, one thing is certain- and it is something that many parents do not fully grasp. The fact is that when not-so-little Jon or Jane moves away from home to begin this exciting chapter of life, he or she is not only leaving the comforts of home but also the protections that parents offer until the age of 18. Laundry or cooking are some essential life skills that should wisely be learned in short order, but some consequences of reaching adulthood are not so obvious to most.
In most states including Missouri, like it or not, an 18-year old is considered a legal adult. You may be shocked to learn that means that, as a parent, your legal right to make important decisions about your child’s health care and finances is no longer automatic. Accordingly, it is imperative that you establish your legal ability to make these decisions, before it is too late. Prior to your child departing for college or otherwise embarking on the next stage of his or her life, an advanced directive, power of attorney for finances and health and HIPAA authorization, at a minimum, should be created and executed.
In the event the child is hospitalized, medical personnel have no obligation to follow anyone’s wishes regarding treatment or consent except for the patient’s, and medical records are going to remain sealed from view absent a court order directing otherwise. In the event of a debilitating accident, illness, or mishap that leaves the child unable to determine his or her own course of treatment or who can make those decisions on his or her behalf, a doctor’s hands are going to be tied unless a court intervenes.
Similarly, financial institutions like banks, utility providers or even landlords typically will not permit an individual that is not named on an account to access its funds or information. This means that if a child is in the hospital for an extended period of time unable to act on his own behalf, the financial repercussions of failing to do things such as pay bills in a timely fashion can be long-lasting in the form of bad credit and collections.
So how do parents and student plan for the unthinkable? The answer in this case is to execute a few relatively simple documents, which, if done correctly, will ensure that a parent will be able to act on behalf of his child both medically and financially should the need arise
There are many items on the typical pre-college ‘to-do’ list and now, more than ever, creating an estate plan for your child should be located at the top of that list.
1. Advanced Directive
An advance directive is a legal document that explains how you want medical decisions about you to be made if you cannot make the decisions yourself. An advance directive lets your health care team and loved ones know what kind of health care you want, or who you want to make decisions for you when you can't.
2. Health Care Power of Attorney
The Health Care Proxy will allow your adult child to appoint you as his or her agent to make health care decisions on his or her behalf, in the event that your child is unable to make those decisions on his or her own. In the event of your child’s incapacity or incompetence, as health care agent, you would be authorized to make decisions regarding your child’s medical treatment.
3. General Financial Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney allows your child to appoint you as agent to handle his or her financial affairs, including paying bills, making deposits or withdrawals, opening or closing bank accounts, filing tax returns and renewing a lease.
A Power of Attorney is particularly important in the event of a child’s incapacity or incompetence, as it may avoid the costly and complicated Guardianship procedure which is otherwise required when an individual becomes incapacitated for any reason, whether as a result of coronavirus, disease or accident. In addition, it can prevent any difficulties involved with the management of your child’s financial affairs while a Guardianship proceeding is pending and before a Guardian has been appointed by the court.
4. HIPAA Authorization
This form enables your child to grant written permission to his or her health care providers to share crucial medical information with you, as your child’s health care agent.
So parents, while your young adult prepares to head off to college in the coming weeks consider sending him or her away with a durable power of attorney for healthcare and durable power of attorney for finances and property. No matter how unlikely it seems that you’ll ever need to use them, find solace knowing that you’ll be able to act to protect his interests, if necessary. You have plenty of things to worry about during this transitional period in life- don’t let this be one of them.
How are these documents drafted and where can I get them?
We are here to help. We have a team of experienced attorneys who have helped many clients create estate plans that protect the people they love and the legacy they have created. Call our office to schedule an appointment to learn about our process and receive answers to any questions you may have.
KEVIN SHAUN VITALE
VITALE LAW, LLC
107 Creekside Office Drive,
Wentzville, MO 63385
Telephone (314) 759-6400