Most people in their late teens and early 20s do not own a substantial amount of assets, but it can still be prudent to have certain estate planning documents in place on their behalf. When your child turns 18, you no longer have the legal right to make healthcare or financial decisions for them. In the event of a health crisis or a severe injury, you would no longer be able to step in and take care of things for them.
A Texas estate planning attorney can talk to you about your situation and explain which estate planning documents would be best for your young adult child. Let’s answer the question, does your college student need estate planning?
A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions
For the first 18 years of his life, you had the legal authority to choose your child’s doctors, attend his medical appointments, and sign consent forms when he needed medical treatment like surgery. Even if he is still on your health insurance policy, you no longer have the right to make his medical decisions or talk to his healthcare providers about any medical issues he might have after he turns 18.
Beginning on his 18th birthday, you will only have the authority to take care of those things on his behalf if he has signed a legal document like a power of attorney for healthcare decisions. This paper, also called a “healthcare proxy” or “health care surrogate designation”, lets him choose the person who can step in and handle his medical care if he becomes incapacitated.
A quick Google search will show you many heartbreaking stories of college-age individuals who became incapacitated suddenly because of car accidents or other unexpected events. Their parents had to go to court and get a judge to sign an order authorizing them to take care of their child’s medical needs. They would not have had to do this if they had a power of attorney for healthcare decisions.
This document only comes into play when the adult child becomes incapacitated. The paper does not allow anyone to order medical procedures against his will if he has legal capacity.
A HIPAA Medical Records Release and Authorization
If the power of attorney for healthcare decisions does not include HIPAA language that gives the designated decision-maker access to review the person’s medical records and talk to the healthcare providers, you will need a separate document, a HIPAA medical records release, and authorization.
Without that legal permission, your young adult child’s healthcare providers are not allowed to talk to you about your child’s health or let you see the medical file, even if you are the designated medical decision-maker. As ludicrous as it sounds, you would have to make healthcare decisions for your incapacitated young adult child without the information that you need to make good choices.
A Durable Power of Attorney for Financial and General Decisions
If your over-18 child becomes incapacitated, they will not be able to manage their financial matters for themselves, at least temporarily. Let’s say that your child rents an apartment. If the rent does not get paid, the landlord could evict him while he is lying in a coma in a hospital. If you do not have permission to open his mail and pay his bills for him, his credit score could plummet, a situation that could cause him financial harm for years.
A durable power of attorney for financial and general matters would allow you to step in and take care of things until your child recuperates and can take the reins back. The power of attorney must be durable because a typical power of attorney becomes void when the person becomes incapacitated.
Why it Can Make Sense for a College-Age Student to Have a Simple Will
Many people do not think about getting a will until they have children of their own or even grandchildren. If your college-age student has a simple will, they will not die intestate.
Dying without a valid will or living trust, in other words, being intestate, makes things more difficult for the surviving loved ones in terms of the cost and inconvenience of administering the deceased person’s estate. If your family experiences the tragic loss of a young adult child, having to jump through legal hoops can make things even more difficult.
A Texas estate planning attorney can draft the documents your college-age student needs to cover their estate planning issues. We can help you with that, get in touch with our office today for a free consultation.