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When Does Your Child Need an Estate Plan?

When Does Your Child Need an Estate Plan?

Did you know children need estate plans, too? Well, it depends on your definition of a child. But if you have a child headed off to college, they land squarely in the “need an estate plan” category.

You’re sending your child off to college – maybe they plan to live in a dorm across town, or perhaps they plan to move a couple of hours away or across the country. Regardless of where your child is attending university, your college-age child needs to add “estate planning” to their to-do list, preparing them for their first semester.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, the importance of estate planning for college students was featured. They noted that many college-age children wouldn’t take the estate planning discussion very seriously because the majority of them have few assets (or none at all). What they aren’t considering when dismissing estate planning concerns due to a lack of assets is that asset distribution is only one part of an estate plan.

What You Need to Know About Estate Plans for College Students:

  1. Estate plans have components involving incapacitation and medical decisions in addition to asset distribution.
  2. Children 18 and over are considered adults by law. As an “adult,” your child’s medical record will be protected. Due to privacy laws, many medical facilities will not involve parents in medical decisions if their 18-year-old or older child is injured or incapacitated.
  3. If you are going to assist your adult child in putting together their estate plan, certain documents should be included.

Estate Planning Documents Every Young Adult Should Have:

A Will:

A will helps ensure the young adult’s assets go where and to who they would like. Without a will, assets are passed according to state law, which usually means parents or other family members.

Living Will:

Sometimes called the healthcare directive, the living will explain the young adult’s medical treatment preferences. For instance, it may include guidelines advising professionals providing medical treatment to use every available technique available to sustain life in the event of an emergency, or it could advise which procedures the young adult would NOT like used (i.e., artificial life support).

Durable Powers of Attorney:

The person named in a durable power of attorney put in place for healthcare allows the designated person to make medical decisions. Another similar document can be created to grant a third party the power to make financial decisions.

HIPPA Release:

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA), provides patients with extensive privacy rights. While the privacy HIPPA grants is generally a great advantage, the privacies it puts in place can create significant distress if parents are attempting to assist in the decision-making process of their incapacitated child. Having a HIPPA release can avoid this impossible situation.

If the above documents are not in place for your college-age child, gaining access to the medical decision process can be extremely difficult. In some situations, a lawsuit has to be filed with the court to place the parent as a temporary legal guardian. This is a costly and trying process that can take away from both resources and time better spent on helping the incapacitated young adult get better.

Which exact documents are best in your particular situation can vary depending on the details. Get in touch with an experienced Florida estate planning attorney at Elder Solutions Law Firm, PA to discuss your situation and find out how to design a successful estate plan for you.