Before You Send Your Children Back to College, Don’t Forget This Often-Overlooked Step!

estate-planning-collegeYou’re a responsible parent. You’ve looked out for your children in the event of the unthinkable. You and your spouse may have wills, estate plans, powers of attorney and other asset-protecting documents in place and have left instructions on where to find them. But what about your college-age children?

The single-most common misconception that people have for why their young adult children don’t have estate planning documents is that he or she doesn’t have enough money to warrant concern and wouldn’t they just fall under our planning?

The truth is, if your child is over the age of 18, they are adults in the eyes of the law and you need to be thinking about health care decisioIn fact, creating a durable power of attorney and a health care proxy for him or her are two of the most responsible things you can do for your adult children.

Most parents don’t realize the day that he or she turned 18, you’ve lost legal authority over your adult children. It doesn’t matter that he or she may still live at home full-time or part-time when home from school, or that you are paying for their health insurance, phone or college tuition: the laws of many states indicate that without the appropriate paperwork in place, you may not have the legal rights to speak for your child when it comes to health care and financial decisions unless specified.

Accidents and illness can happen to anybody. Unless your child has a durable power of attorney and a health care proxy in place, you may not be able to make decisions on his or her behalf. Further, if you do not have a HIPAA release in place for your child, you may not even be able to obtain information about what is going on with his or her health care.

This is especially true for young adults traveling abroad. Is your son or daughter doing a semester overseas or traveling during a gap year? Many foreign countries have stronger laws in-place regarding privacy than we have in the U.S. These more comprehensive laws are intended to protect both identities and confidential health information. However, without the proper legal documentation, doctors may refuse to discuss your child’s condition with you unless they have the signed paperwork to prove that you have been given the needed authorizations.

The experienced estate attorneys at Bratton Scott are here to provide legal counsel that works for your whole life, and we can help you put these valuable documents in place for your family.