The recent COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for Estate Planning considerations for your college-bound kids. Estate Planning isn't just for the wealthy and aging, it is useful for the living in the event that they become ill and are no longer able to care for and make important decisions for themselves. For example, designating someone who can make healthcare-related decisions on their behalf if they’re unable to can be a helpful and is typically the first step in estate planning that benefits both the student and their family.
With the new trend showing that younger people may be the primary spreaders of COVID-19, and many students returning to campus this month, Estate Attorneys are seeing an uptick in families getting these documents put in place. Since most college students are technically adults (at age 18), they’re responsible for all decisions regarding their health. Due to the Privacy Rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), parents have no legal right to their adult children’s medical records or other healthcare-related information. This makes it difficult for parents to assist if their college-aged child needs medical help, especially from a distance. Unfortunately, HIPAA even applies in cases where the student is still on his or her parents’ medical insurance.
Documents to Prepare
The three documents listed below make it easier for parents to step in and assist if their college-aged children are in medical need:
Healthcare Power of Attorney (POA)
Many states have default statutes that mandate who can make decisions for you in the event of a medical emergency. The Healthcare POA authorizes someone specifically designated to make medical decisions on behalf of the child, as well as gives access to medical records in the event the child is incapacitated or temporarily unable to make decisions for himself. The document is state-specific to where it will be used.
This document allows an individual's health information to be used by or disclosed to a third party.
Durable Power of Attorney (POA)
Some may also opt for a durable POA in order to make financial decisions on the child’s behalf. While the health care POA is important for all students, the financial POA can be more relevant for high-net-worth (HNW) families, as young adults from HNW families tend to have more assets and business interests at stake. The financial POA can also authorize the designated agent to deal with student loans and sort out tuition bills. These forms vary by state as well and may be available through the school in which your child attends college.
These documents are easy and relatively inexpensive to prepare. Some forms may be available online but we always recommend consulting with your attorney to be sure nothing is missed. In an ideal world, none of these will ever be needed. But it's better to spend a few hours and dollars completing these documents to save yourself the hassle and headaches down the line in the event of an emergency. It's also a good idea to keep these documents in an easy-to-retrieve location (like our Client Vault) so they can be accessed anywhere, anytime.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for individualized legal advice. Please consult your legal advisor regarding your specific situation.