If you are a proud parent of a recent high school graduate preparing to send your child off to college, congratulations! As you make the final preparations for this exciting new chapter in their life, it's essential to consider their future beyond dorm room essentials. Estate planning may not be the first thing on your mind, but it's a critical step in ensuring your child's well-being and providing peace of mind for both of you. In this article, we'll explore the documents that every college student should have and why they are indispensable.
- Power of Attorney - Empowering Your Child's Decision-making
A power of attorney (POA) grants someone, known as the "attorney-in-fact," the authority to make legal decisions on behalf of the principal. For college students, a durable power of attorney is often recommended, as it remains effective even if the principal lacks legal capacity. This can prevent the need for court-appointed guardianship during emergencies or times of incapacity. It's crucial for your child to customize the scope of powers granted in the POA, allowing the attorney-in-fact to manage real property interests, access digital assets, handle financial matters, and more. Additionally, they can decide whether the POA takes effect immediately or only upon a showing of incapacity (a "springing" power of attorney). There are so many things that your child is used to you being able to do for them that it is impossible to list them all here, but especially if they are attending a college further away from home, a power of attorney can be extremely useful.
- Health Care Proxy - Ensuring Medical Decisions Align with Your Child's Wishes
A health care proxy designates an agent to make medical decisions on behalf of the principal if they are unable to do so. Encouraging your child to create a health care proxy empowers them to set forth their wishes concerning hospital care and medical interventions. Though difficult for a college-age student to contemplate, having these decisions in place can ease the burden on loved ones during medical emergencies. Ancillary documents like living wills or "Five Wishes" forms can provide the health care agent with additional context around the principal's wishes.
- HIPAA Authorization - Granting Access to Medical Records
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) safeguards one's privacy in medical records and health information. A HIPAA authorization allows designated individuals, including health care agents and attorneys-in-fact, access to the principal's medical records and discussions about their medical care. This authorization streamlines communication and ensures that important medical information can be accessed when needed.
- FERPA Authorization - Maintaining Privacy in Education Records
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects one's privacy in education records. As your child becomes an adult at age 18, their educational records transfer to them. A FERPA authorization allows a school to disclose and discuss education records with parents, offering an essential communication tool between parents and adult students. Different states may have varying requirements or limitations for power of attorney and health directive documents, so it's essential to consult an estate planner if your child is heading out of state for college.
Choosing the Right Agents
Most young adults typically select one or both parents as their attorney-in-fact and health care agent, but other considerations, such as geographic location, age, or health, may lead them to consider other individuals. It's vital for your child to choose someone they trust to act in their best interests and with whom they are comfortable discussing their wishes. More than one person can be named to serve as an agent, either together or in succession. However, it's generally advisable to have only one health care agent to avoid potential conflicts during medical emergencies.
Sending them off prepared and ready
As you prepare to send your college-bound child into the world, consider gifting them the security of these life planning documents. A power of attorney, health care proxy, HIPAA authorization, and FERPA authorization are essential tools that provide peace of mind for both you and your students alike, and of course, IronClad Family offers these documents, in addition to laser-etched emergency cards for their purse or wallet to ensure that you are immediately notified if anything happens to them.
Help your child to take these proactive steps in planning for their future by speaking to them about this before they head off for their new college. Reviewing and updating these documents at the beginning of each school year will keep them aligned with their wishes and ensure their well-being during life's unpredictable journey. With all of this in place, your child can confidently embrace their emerging financial independence and embark on a bright future ahead.