Peace of Mind for Parents: The Importance of College Student Estate Planning
Sending a child off to college is like watching them embark on a grand adventure. The preparation leading up to the big day can be an emotional rollercoaster, filled with anticipation, excitement, and even a little bit of anxiety. We focus on things like academic readiness, dorm room supplies, and financial arrangements. But there’s one aspect often overlooked during this exciting journey – estate planning. Yes, estate planning! You might be thinking, “Isn’t that for the elderly?” The answer is surprisingly, no. Even young adults heading off to college can benefit from some basic estate planning.
1. Knowing Who’s in Charge: Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) and Healthcare Power of Attorney (HPOA)
Imagine for a moment your son, Josh, studying in a college halfway across the country, is involved in a bicycle accident. He’s alright, but he’s been knocked unconscious. Who will make the decisions about his medical care? Without an HPOA, doctors might have to rely on their judgement without knowing Josh’s personal preferences.
A DPOA and an HPOA are legal documents that allow your child to name someone they trust (like a parent) to handle financial matters and make healthcare decisions on their behalf, should they be unable to do so. It’s like having a safety net, ensuring that decisions made align with your child’s wishes, even in unexpected circumstances.
2. Informed and Involved: The Importance of HIPAA Authorization
The law protects our medical information through a law called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA for short. Without proper authorization, even parents can’t access their adult child’s health information. Imagine Josh being treated in the hospital after his bike accident, and the doctors can’t discuss his medical condition with you because of HIPAA restrictions.
A HIPAA Authorization form allows healthcare providers to share information about your child’s health status with you or another person your child designates. So, in Josh’s case, you’ll be informed of his condition, able to consult with his doctors, and be a part of the decision-making process.
3. Respecting Their Wishes: The Role of a Living Will
A Living Will, or Directive to Physicians, allows your child to express their preferences about life-sustaining treatment. While it’s a difficult conversation to have, knowing your child’s wishes can be a massive relief during emotional times. Just like your child’s journey to college, a Living Will fosters independence and the ability to make critical life decisions.
4. Ready for Health Emergencies: The Value of Preparedness
A health emergency is a parent’s worst nightmare. And it can strike at any time. Let’s go back to Emily’s situation. If she has a pre-existing condition or a known allergy to certain medications, this information could be critical to her treatment.
A detailed health emergency plan, beyond the legal documents, should include a comprehensive and up-to-date medical history. This document should cover all known allergies, current medications, and chronic conditions. The easier this information is to access, the better the medical personnel can respond to Emily’s needs.
Moreover, the plan should detail Emily’s health insurance coverage. It should clarify what it covers, how to file claims, and any restrictions, especially if Emily is studying out-of-state or abroad. Having a well-defined health emergency plan can alleviate the distress during a crisis, ensuring that Emily gets the best possible care without unnecessary delays or confusion.
5. Protection for Their Belongings: Last Will and Testament
While your college-aged child might not own a lot of high-value assets, they might have items of sentimental value, like a collection of baseball cards or a cherished guitar. A Last Will and Testament ensures that these items go to the intended beneficiaries. Plus, it’s a practical way to introduce your child to the responsibilities of adulthood.
6. A Reality Check: Stepping Into Adulthood
While estate planning may seem like a lesson in responsibility, it’s more than that. It’s a reality check. As our children head off to college, they’re stepping into adulthood. Part of that journey is realizing they’re now responsible for their own lives in ways they haven’t been before. By including them in the estate planning process, we’re not just giving them a legal safety net. We’re helping them understand the gravity and reality of being an adult.
In conclusion, estate planning for your college-aged child provides a comprehensive safety net that protects their interests and provides you with peace of mind. It’s about more than just legal paperwork. It’s about ensuring that your child, who’s stepping into the adult world, is protected. As you watch your child navigate their college journey with excitement, confidence, and a dash of nervous energy, remember that with careful estate planning, they will also be prepared to navigate life’s unexpected challenges.