• Bryan D. Eisenbise, Esq.

3 Estate Planning Considerations for Every College Student

A measurable number of clients in the process of creating their own estate plan have one or more of their children in college (or heading there soon). With their own planning taking up much of their bandwidth, most clients don't ever think of planning needs for their new adult children. There is one distinct dynamic which necessitates a conversation: Young adults who are still very much dependent on their parents, are still adults and must take affirmative steps to allow parents to still care.

You have no rights to your children's medical information. As an adult, the full force and strength of HIPAA privacy regulations come into the picture. If you are still managing things like routine health care, dental care, or anything similar, you will likely be running into problems without the access to your child's medical information. Even if a child is still on your insurance plan, once they reach age 18, their HIPAA privacy rights are still intact. However, a common estate planning document (the "HIPAA Authorization") explicitly authorizes a third party to have this access. Upon turning 18, every child should have a HIPAA Authorization document signed authorizing you access to their medical information.

In a medical emergency, you have no rights, access, or decision-making authority. Identical to the dynamics of the HIPAA privacy laws as mentioned above, without a health care directive, no adult (even a parent) can have any involvement with the medical care of another adult. Many medical professionals are open to talking to next-of-kin, but that is not a legal, guaranteed right. A colleague of mine had a client who received a call in the middle of the night from their child's friend at college that their child was in a car accident and in the hospital. After arriving at the hospital the very next day, the parents learned the child had been transferred, but that is all the information they were able to get. They weren't even able to find out to where they were transferred. Even if the parents in this situation where standing by the side of their child in the hospital, they would have to turn over all medical decisions (including end-of-life decisions) to the hospital staff. Having an Advance Health Care Directive will give you this authority.

You have no authority to handle matter on your child's behalf. We also take for granted the little things we do on our child's behalf. When that child moves away to college, the issues become even more important. If your child were to be in an accident, you have no legal authority to handle matters relating to credit cards, a car loan, apartment lease. Furthermore, without any pre-arranged decisions with their school, you have no ability to address issues relating to their education (which you are probably paying for!) A Power of Attorney will allow you to handle matters on your child's behalf, which could range anywhere from a trivial cell phone contract to something as serious as an investment account.

Parents and grandparents everywhere all agree that children grow up incredibly fast. Although turning 18 is a momentous milestone, we often fail to consider the new dynamics of the relationship we have. As our children (and especially during the college years), we are caring for them just as much as we have for years prior, but as adults, they have rights which automatically preclude us from doing so. Having a few proper documents in place could make a world of difference not only for their lives, but for yours.