Do you have a child/niece/nephew/sibling heading to college this summer? For most recent high school graduates and their parents, estate planning is probably the last thing on their mind. With a child being barely an adult with practically no assets, why would he/she need estate planning?
Estate planning does not always focus on property and assets distribution from parents to their kids. A substantial part of estate planning has to do with creating documents that would protect an individual in case of their incapacity.
Parents are used to making decisions for their kids when it comes to healthcare, financial, and other aspects of their children’s lives. However, many parents fail to realize that upon their child reaching adulthood, which is the age of 18, a parent’s ability to control their child’s life and make decisions for them, simply disappears. Parents can no longer speak with their children’s doctors, landlord, bankers, or even access their medical records. Below is a list of the essential documents that each young adult should have before leaving home.
1. HIPAA release form and an Advance Health Care Directive
When a child is away at school and falls ill or otherwise needs medical attention, most parents assume that they will be contacted and will have the rights and responsibilities to direct care. In fact, parents may be surprised that an 18-year-old is protected under federal HIPAA law and medical professionals will deny health care information to parents.
2. Durable Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney is a powerful document which enables you to designate an agent to act for when it comes to financial, personal and private matters in the event that you are unable to do so yourself. This document will allow a parent to talk to their child’s landlord, bank, or even school. It would allow a parent to pay their children's bills, rent, and other expenses.
These documents could be prepared specifically for your child by an estate planning attorney. In California, you also have the option of using statutory forms for each of these documents:
Advance Health Care Directive:
Statutory Power of Attorney: https://www.smclawlibrary.org/forms/PowerOfAttorney.pdf
HIPAA form: https://www.dhcs.ca.gov/formsandpubs/laws/priv/Documents/2017%20Privacy%20Forms/FINALAccessibledhcsform6247.pdf
Since it may be important for you to be able to make crucial financial and/or health decisions for your child, it’s imperative to establish your legal ability to do so ahead of time. Waiting until something happens where your child may be incapacitated, even temporarily, is too late. He or she will be unable to consent to access their health records or authorize a parent to make decisions on their behalf. Therefore, it is imperative for your college student to have a properly executed Advance Health Care Directive, HIPAA form and a Durable Power of Attorney before they leave home and head to college.