Contrary to widespread belief, estate planning is beneficial to young people, especially college students. Once a child reaches age 18, the age of majority, parents are no longer able to handle matters on their behalf without written approval like they used to. Of course, I knew this in general, but it did not hit home until my son was about to go off to college and needed to submit a form to his college containing vaccination confirmation and physical exam results completed by his doctor’s office. So, I called the doctor’s office to discuss my son’s vaccination history and schedule a physical for him and was turned away due to privacy concerns. It was a rude awakening and a painful reminder that this can happen repeatedly from hereon at home or when he goes away to school. It does not matter that he is still on my health insurance.
According to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), parents no longer have the right to access their children’s medical records once they become a legal adult (18 years old). It does not matter that he is still on my health insurance. There is also a similar prohibition with access to information from your children’s college. It also does not matter that you pay our children’s tuition. According to the Family Educations Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), schools may—but are not required to-share information with parents after the student turns 18 years old. Many schools will not share that information unless they have something in writing from the student authorizing it. Even though some young adults may not have accumulated assets by the time they leave home, whether to attend college or begin their life as an adult, because they are an adult, some level of estate planning is required to protect them and provide them assistance in the unfortunate event of incapacitation or death. As such, we recommend, at a minimum, that the following estate planning documents be prepared for your adult child:
- Durable Power of Attorney
This Power of Attorney allows a person (the principal) to give the authority to another person (the Attorney in fact or Agent) to manage the principal’s affairs to give – albeit financial or medical – in the event the principal becomes incapacitated and cannot handle their own matters. This Power of Attorney can become effective upon signing by the principal or can “spring” into effect when the principal becomes incapacitated. The authority granted can be broad/general or limited to a specific situation or time frame and can be revoked at any time or upon the death of the Agent.
- HIPAA Authorization
This legal document allows a person’s medical information to be disclosed or utilized by a third-party. If your child signs this and states you are the person who can receive their medical records, this ensures that medical professionals can speak with you concerning your child if any medical issues or emergencies arise concerning your child.
- Advance Healthcare Directive
This legal form only applies to end-of-life scenarios. It provides authority for another person to carry out the decisions made by your child about how he/she wants to be medically treated or not if in a terminal condition, vegetative state or end-stage condition if they are no longer mentally capable of doing himself/herself. This prevents the parents or next of kin from implementing decisions about your adult child that he/she would not want.
The primary function of a Will is that it is a revocable disposition of property intended to take effect on death. Preparing a Will is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family. A Will is intended to provide legal protection to your family and assets, including any digital assets. Your digital assets may include online accounts, such as Facebook or email, and digital files or property (photos, videos, domain names, etc.). In your Will, you can also name Personal Representative to manage your digital and other assets after you pass. You can leave your assets to specific people and include information on how you want them handled (e.g., if you would like an account closed).
You may be saying that an 18-year-old person seems too young to have a Will. It is quite the contrary as of late. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, younger people (aged 18- to 34-years-old) have taken estate planning more seriously and are more likely to have wills than older aged groups. According to the article, Younger Adults Now More Likely to Have a Will, the author wrote that a 2021 survey taken by Caring found that “18- to 34-year-olds are more likely to have a will than 35- to 54-year-olds, with 26.8 percent in the younger cohort saying they have estate planning documents compared to 22.5 percent in the older group.”
In closing, the hope is that you will not have to use these forms, but the reality is that we have no idea when illness or tragedy will happen. The comforting thing is that if you have at least these documents, you will be more equipped and prepared to handle next steps immediately if an emergency occurs or a situation that requires you to use one or all of the documents.
If you desire more information or would like to create an estate plan for your college aged child, please contact The Lundy Law Group by phone at 410-480-7090 or email us at [email protected]. Also, please refer to our blog articles on our website at www.lundylawgroup.com or view our videos on YouTube for additional resources.