by Erika Pitzel.
The new year (and decade) has rolled around. As you think about setting goals and making resolutions, consider discussing with your college student the need to put in place some basic estate planning documents. Documents to consider include a Power of Attorney, an Advance Directive, medical information releases, and possibly a will.
Most college students are still financially supported by their parents and typically don’t have many assets, so you might not think that your student needs these documents. In addition, when you spend years raising your children, it’s easy to continue to see them as just children. However, in Georgia, when your child turns 18 years old, they are officially an adult. As a parent, you will no longer have access to or control over their financial or health matters, and you can no longer make decisions or respond to inquiries on their behalf. That applies even if the matter seems small, and it can be problematic when it concerns financial matters and emergency healthcare. What happens if legal issues arise at home and your student is away at school or traveling, or your student suffers an injury or medical emergency and becomes incapacitated or disabled? These key documents are essential for every college student (every person, for that matter), whether they live at home or college, because they will provide you as the parent (if your student names you as their agent) with the legal tools to handle financial and health issues on their behalf.
Advance Directive for Healthcare
An Advance Directive for Healthcare (Advance Directive) is a document stating a person’s healthcare preferences. The document also allows a person to appoint a healthcare agent who would be able to speak to doctors and have the authority to make health decisions, including decisions about medical testing or treatment, in the event the person is unable to communicate their wishes.
What happens if your student doesn’t have an Advance Directive in place? Potentially, you could face delays in making urgent healthcare decisions or someone else could end up making those important decisions for your child.
Because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), healthcare providers cannot share health information about a patient (your student) without their authorization, even if you are the adult student’s parent. The HIPAA form provides this authorization. A HIPAA form authorizes healthcare providers to release and share medical information about your student with the person or persons designated by your student. It is important that your child fill out this form before it is needed in case of an accident or other medical emergency.
Financial Power of Attorney
While an Advance Directive addresses healthcare matters, a Financial Power of Attorney (Power of Attorney) is a legal document that enables a person to act on another’s behalf to manage another person’s financial matters. A parent may be paying their student’s expenses, but a college student may also have accounts in their individual name. A Financial Power of Attorney can give the financial agent the authority to pay bills, sign legal documents, and handle bank accounts, credit cards, apartment leases, and digital assets.
Some students should also consider having a will. A will allows a person to determine how their estate will be distributed if they die. Because most students have few personal assets, a will might not be necessary. But in some situations, a will could be important and could ensure that any assets they do have are distributed according to the student’s wishes.
If a college student does not have an Advance Directive for Healthcare, a HIPAA form, and a Financial Power of Attorney, then you as a parent may not be able to quickly act on their behalf if needed. You could face delays in making urgent healthcare decisions or could need court approval to act, which can be expensive and time-consuming. While you can’t force your child to draft or sign a Power of Attorney, Advance Directive, or other document, you may be the best person to bring up the topic because estate planning is likely the last thing on a college student’s mind.
An Atlanta Estate Planning Attorney Can Help
You have successfully guided your child into adulthood, but now that they are 18, the law limits the assistance you can provide. Putting some basic estate planning documents in place now may allow you to continue to provide needed assistance in the event of an emergency. Call the Atlanta estate planning attorneys at Stanton Law at 404-881-1288 so that we can use our expertise to prepare these important documents for your college student.