If you are the parent of a college-bound child, these last few weeks have probably been a little hectic preparing for classes to start back. As much preparing as you have done though, you may still be concerned about your child’s safety while they are away. One thing that you can do to ease your mind is to take your child to a local estate planning attorney.

Avoid the Risk of Losing Guardianship if Something Unplanned Happens

When a person turns 18, parents normally accept the fact that their child is an adult and can act independently. At 18 though, your child may still want their parents by their side if they get sick or are in an emergency situation, but legally, decisions for medical care are theirs alone. If something happens that leaves your child unable to make a decision for themselves, a parent would be unable to authorize medical care without first going to court. Then, it’s up to the judge as to whether the parent would be considered an appropriate guardian. The process of obtaining guardianship can take weeks to months.

We hope that you would never be put in this situation, but the unfortunate reality is that about a quarter of a million people between the ages of 18 and 25 end up in the hospital each year, and their parents are often barred from making critical medical decisions due to their child’s adult status. Because of this, it is recommended that everyone over the age of 18 have a basic estate plan that includes a will or trust, power of attorney, and medical directives that would allow someone they trust to take action on their behalf if they are unable to.

Here are some things to consider and discuss with your child before your child leaves for college:

  • A HIPAA Authorization: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was designed to protect a patient’s privacy. Having your child sign an authorization will allow necessary doctors to speak with you regarding your child’s care, condition, and treatment.

  • A Durable General Power of Attorney: This legal document allows your child to appoint someone to take care of their bank accounts, pay bills, etc., if they are unable to due to illness, location, or another reason. (For example, their school is across the country and they have bank accounts or other affairs back home that need to be handled in person.)

  • Healthcare Power of Attorney: This document allows your child to appoint someone to make medical decisions for them if they are unable to.

  • A Will: This may seem a little extreme for a college student who may not have many assets. However, for example, the average American has around 90 online accounts. Does your child have any thoughts about who would manage these accounts or close them? Who would manage their email accounts? Who would get their car or their bank account(s)? There are many things to think about and encouraging them to think about the future and the inevitability of death early in life is a great way to instill responsibility.

The estate planning attorneys at Hopler, Wilms, and Hanna, PLLC are passionate about helping people of all ages plan for the future and prepare their legacies. Contact an attorney at Hopler, Wilms, and Hanna, PLLC today and allow us to assist you in including estate planning in your college preparation. 

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