mom dropping off daughter at college

College Parents: Make Sure to Have These Important Estate Planning Documents in Place

The summer before college is an exciting time for parents and students. High school graduates face uncertainty about becoming adults and living on their own. Parents are thrilled to see their children have an opportunity to pursue their dreams. While it may not seem likely, it’s the perfect time to discuss estate planning with your student. 

Once your child turns 18, you will no longer have control of their assets or be able to legally make decisions on their behalf, even in an emergency. Knowing how to protect your child when life becomes unpredictable is essential. 

Obtaining Durable Power of Attorney

Even at 18, college students are still learning how to navigate the responsibilities of adulthood. Obtaining a durable power of attorney ensures that you can continue to guide them in doing so. This document gives you access to their financial accounts to pay bills such as a car note or insurance premium. You can also sign legal documents or assist with tax returns.

In this way, a durable power of attorney is valuable if your student ever becomes incapacitated. It offers flexibility in how and when power is granted and provides a safety net during uncertain times.

Making Decisions About Your Child’s Health

No matter their age, every person is susceptible to health issues. If your child suffers a life-altering injury or illness, it’s best for someone they trust to make medical decisions for them. Your college student can plan for this possibility in two ways.

Health Care Proxy

Also known as a medical power of attorney form, a healthcare proxy form allows parents or another designated party to make medical decisions on a student’s behalf. This ensures that you are never in the dark and that your child receives care that aligns with their (or the family’s) preferences, even when they cannot speak for themselves.

HIPAA Authorization

Your college-aged student may not want to give up total control of their medical decisions to another party. If this is the case, they can sign a HIPAA release. At the very least, this will give the student’s doctors and medical professionals the right to share medical records and updates with a parent or authorized loved one.

Creating a Simple or Living Will

Many college students assume they don’t need a will for two reasons:

  1. Students believe they have a long life ahead of them
  2. They don’t think they have many assets to distribute

However, life doesn’t always go as planned. In the event of an untimely death or incapacitating injury, having a simple will gives them complete control over who gets the possessions they do have. For example, they may want their parents to have their car or give a sentimental piece of jewelry to a favorite cousin. 

A living will (also called an advance directive) gives your student the right to make end-of-life care decisions for themselves before they reach that stage. Living wills can include a medical power of attorney and covers issues like DNR (do not resuscitate) orders, how long to remain on life support, and whether you want to be an organ donor.

Digital Assets Inventory

Students use technology for everything from banking to socializing with friends. Including digital assets in a will is essential, especially if they keep money in an electronic account. This ensures their parents and other designated family members have full access to their assets to carry out their last will.

An Attorney’s Advice Is Essential

Talking about their estate plans may not be the first thing on a college student’s to-do list, but it’s a necessary part of becoming a responsible adult. As a parent, it’s your job to give your student the tools they need to take control of their lives and plan for the future. Fortunately, neither of you has to face these decisions alone.

Contact an Orange County, CA, Estate Planning, Wills, and Trusts attorney from OC Wills & Trusts today to start the discussion with your college student and learn how to work together to protect your family’s future.

Brian Chew, the managing partner of OC Wills & Trust Attorneys, has extensive experience in the areas of estate planning, asset protection planning, business succession planning, long-term care planning, and veterans’ benefits. By devoting his practice to estate planning matters, he has founded a firm that strives to provide exceptional service to their clients by working closely with individuals and their families to create comprehensive and customized estate plans. For the past twenty five years, Brian has served thousands of clients in the matters of estate planning, wills and trusts. If you have any questions about this article, you can reach Brian Chew here.