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My Kid is Heading to College – Should We Do Any Estate Planning?

So, your kid is off to college. Congratulations! What estate planning documents, if any, should he or she have?

Ideally, he or she should have a Financial Power of Attorney, an Advance Medical Directive, and a HIPAA Release Form (this is the minimum, circumstances may alter the need). If your kid names you, the parent(s), to serve as his or her agent under these documents, you will have the ability to help him or her with financial and medical affairs. You have probably helped your child with these things his or her entire life, but now that your little one is over 18, and a legal adult, you no longer have full, if any, control, unless these documents are executed.

Assuming your child desires to name you, the parent(s) to serve as agents in these roles, these are the powers you would have:

  • The Financial Power of Attorney allows your child to grant you access to any bank account or financial asset your child acquires in his or her individual name while he or she is away at school. This may be useful in case something happens and you need to gain control of an account. It will also allow you handle financial affairs for your child, which is something you were probably doing before he or she left for school anyway.
  • The Advance Medical Directive has two parts: The first part of this document allows your child to appoint you as his or her medical agent, which grants you the clear power to make medical decisions for your child in the event that he or she cannot make such decisions himself or herself. The second part of this document is the Living Will, which expresses your child’s desires about extraordinary life sustaining measures.
  • The HIPAA Release Form allows your child to name you to receive confidential medical information from their doctors.

The caveat is that for you to gain the powers mentioned above, your child, now a legal adult, must make the express decision to grant you such powers. Your child has the legal capacity to name any person he or she would like to serve in these roles, including another relative or friend. Understand that paying to have these documents drafted does not change your child’s freedom of choice in these matters.

Lastly, you should know that there is a federal law in place that restricts your right to receive your child’s educational information, even if you are footing the bill. This is called The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. You will not be able to receive any information about your child’s academics unless your child expressly authorizes you, and sometimes the authorization must be renewed with the school on a case by case basis for disclosure. Nevertheless, if your child desires, we can work with him or her to create an authorization that may be accepted.

We congratulate all parents who are guiding their children in this next exciting step of life. To discuss planning for this milestone, give us a call at (301) 468-3220 or email me at coryn@altmanbackup.peakperformance.dev.

Coryn Rosenstock, Esq.

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