Preparing your child to go off to college is an exciting, sometimes overwhelming task. As you work to collect the supplies they’ll need for their Freshman year, do not overlook the important legal documents that every student should have in place before they go off to college. While children are minors, parents are responsible for making decisions on their behalf. However, in most states, once an individual turns 18, he or she becomes an adult in the eyes of the law. For this reason, it is important to consider these vital legal documents:
- A Durable Power of Attorney authorizes one or more people to make financial decisions on behalf of another. A Durable Power of Attorney remains in effect if the person granting the authorization becomes incapacitated. This document could be used for bank accounts, rental agreements, and tuition issues. Some colleges and universities may not speak with parents over tuition issues when the child is over 18, which can be frustrating if the parent is the one paying the tuition bill.
- A Healthcare Power of Attorney allows an individual to appoint a trusted person(s) to make medical decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated. This document ensures that medical professionals are aware of the designated person who can provide informed consent for medical treatments.
- Advance Directives (e.g., a living will or do-not-resuscitate (DNR)) help guide the specific decisions of doctors and caregivers if a person becomes incapacitated and incapable of expressing his or her wishes regarding medical treatment.
- A Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Waiver gives medical providers permission to release and share an individual’s medical information with others, including his or her parents or other family members. This authorization can be crucial when coordinating medical care from a distance. It is especially important not only in the event of an accident or other emergency, but also if a parent of a college-bound child needs to obtain immunization records from a physician or complete other medical forms required by the college.
- Last Will and Testament. Though it may seem premature, college-bound students should consider drafting a will to designate beneficiaries for any assets they may have, especially once they reach majority age. Having an estate plan can help them to protect themselves, their assets, their family, and their future. Most young adults do not have substantial personal assets, so a simple will may be all that is needed initially.
As your child enters the world of higher education and gains greater independence, ensuring they have the necessary legal documents in place is an act of love and responsibility. These documents empower them to protect their best interests during their college years. By taking the time to prepare these legal essentials, parents can rest assured that their young adult is better equipped to navigate the future responsibly and confidently.
It’s never too early to plan for the unexpected and safeguard your child’s well-being. An estate planning attorney can help a young adult determine the ideal estate plan for his or her unique needs.