College Student Doing Estate Planning with Attorney

Estate Planning for College Students: 4 Documents Your Child Needs to Sign Now

This past week, countless parents posted back-to-school photos all over social media. Regardless of age or grade, parents lamented that time flies by too quickly. I’m feeling this, too; my youngest is in his last year of preschool, and the middle one is plotting with her friends to take over kindergarten. Wasn’t it just last month that we lugged diapers, onesies, and a stroller everywhere?

For parents of college students, the challenge of accepting that these kids are now adults—at least in the eyes of the law—must be even greater. Some stay local; others go halfway or even all the way across the country, leaving home to pursue their education and career goals. Their minds are already filled with class schedules, clubs to join, and social plans. Furthest from their minds (and probably yours too) is estate planning for college students and the serious responsibilities of becoming a legal adult.

Fortunately, you’re still here to steer them in the right direction.

Should College Students Create an Estate Plan?

Yes. Most college freshmen are at least 18, meaning they are legal adults under the law. Before they came of age, you had access to their bank accounts, school reports, and medical records. These things are now theirs to manage—and a parent’s ability to make decisions for an adult child are limited.

Scary as it may seem, they are in control now. Once a child turns 18, mom and dad have no rights anymore. You no longer have the legal right to access your child’s health, financial, and education records—even if you are helping pay for tuition. 

You cannot make healthcare decisions for them, speak to their doctors about treatment, or view their medical records without their express permission. But what if an emergency arises and they’re unable to give it? Without certain documents in place, the only way parents could access their adult children’s medical and financial information would be to go to court.

Pro Tip: It’s important to note that a Last Will and Testament only controls a person’s property. That’s why Wills aren’t enough to protect college students; they need additional estate planning documents to allow their parents access to them while they are still living.

Estate Planning Documents for College Students

As a parent, I know the anxiety we feel. We wonder if we’ve done enough to get our kids ready for their responsibilities. Just as they needed you to learn how to ride their bike or file their taxes for the first time, they need you now more than ever.

Even if they are already settled into their dorm or apartment, you should discuss situations that could occur. Show them the value of having estate planning for college students completed. Assure them they can get help from you if/when they need it. Signing these documents ensures that you’ll have the legal authority to provide your guidance if they ever need it. Best of all, let them enjoy you asking them for permission.

If the time has come for your legal adult to fly the nest, don’t let them fly off before they sign the following documents:

Advance Health Care Directive

This document allows you to make medical decisions for your child in the event they are incapacitated.  Also called Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, it guarantees immediate access to an unconscious child.

An Advance Health Care Directive could have come in handy when I was a freshman in college. After experiencing significant abdominal pain, I asked a friend to take me to the hospital. He was nice enough to drop me off, but I then had to fend for myself. 

Turned out I had acute appendicitis, so surgery was scheduled for the following day. At that time, laparoscopic surgery was a “new” thing, so I still had to be put under general anesthesia. 

Thankfully, everything went smoothly and I was discharged two days after surgery. If something went wrong, the situation would have been much more complicated. I was over a thousand miles from my parents—and I certainly didn’t have an Advance Healthcare Directive completed.

HIPAA Authorization

Medical power of attorney gives you the authority to view your child’s medical records and make treatment decisions. However, that authority only goes into effect if the child is incapacitated. Otherwise, medical records remain private under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

HIPAA requires providers and insurance companies to safeguard the privacy of a patient’s health records. You will need a signed HIPAA authorization form on file to access your child’s medical records legally.

After your child signs a HIPAA release, you could receive medical information about your child’s condition after an accident. You can also weigh in on their proposed treatment or health issue. This can be critical to making informed decisions about your child’s medical care. A HIPAA authorization can also be helpful if your child asks you to speak with their medical provider because “you know what questions to ask.”

Living Will – “Just Pull the Plug”

No one wants to think about the darker what-ifs of life, especially as you’re dropping your child off at their new dorm room. However, when it comes to estate planning for college students, it’s important to plan for worst-case scenarios sooner rather than later. 

Your child’s Living Will provides end-of-life instructions to family and medical providers, including provisions for artificial life support. Because these are literally life-or-death decisions, these powers only go into effect if the person is terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state.

Your child might have certain wishes for their end-of-life care that differ from yours. It’s important that you discuss these decisions with them and document them clearly to ensure they’re properly carried out. 

Pro Tip: Make sure there is a provision in the Living Will that says which document, provision, or Advance Health Care Directive is boss. The last thing anyone wants in that type of situation is a conflict between documents.

Durable Power of Attorney

If your child becomes incapacitated, you’ll also need a Durable Financial Power of Attorney. This allows you to legally deal with school officials, their landlord, and any utility companies on their behalf. If you do not have a signed power of attorney, you would need to go to court to get power over your child’s bank accounts and financial affairs.

Adulting is Real. We Can Help.

As parents, we may see this as too grim a task during such an exciting time. However, it’s important to understand that your young adult will appreciate the opportunity to make important decisions on their own behalf. Use this moment to teach them a valuable lesson in planning for their future and to build a solid financial foundation for the rest of their life.

If your child is getting ready to attend college or pursue some other life goal, we can help you be a hero to your family. With us in your corner, you’ll have peace of mind that your child will be well taken care of in the event of an unforeseen accident or illness.

The documents above are provided with every estate plan we create and are a critical part of protecting your family for years to come. Email us at today or schedule a 15-minute call to learn how we can help you meet your goals.