Estate Planning for College Students

An estate plan for a college student may seem unnecessary since most college students don’t have many (or any) assets. But an estate plan does not just control the disposition of your assets when you die. A properly drafted estate plan also includes directions related to the management of your health care and finances if you become incapacitated. Once your child turns 18, you are no longer authorized to make any decisions or access information about their health care or finances even though you are still their parent and are supporting them emotionally and financially. This is true even if they are incapacitated and unable to make these decisions for themselves.

To avoid the possibility of any problems in already unimaginable circumstances, there are three estate planning documents your child should have in place before leaving for campus this fall:

1. HIPAA Release and Authorization Form

A Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Release and Authorization Form gives health care providers permission to share protected health information with you. A HIPAA Release is very important to have in the event your child is incapacitated or unable to communicate because it enables you to call (or visit) the hospital or medical center and speak directly with the treating physicians. A HIPAA Release is also helpful in circumstances when a child is not incapacitated but needs help understanding and/or communicating with physicians.

2. Advance Health Care Directive

While the HIPAA Release and Authorization Form will allow you access to your child’s medical information, it does not entitle you to make medical decisions for your child in the event they cannot make decisions for themselves (as a result of temporary or permanent incapacity). For that, you need an Advance Health Care Directive. In this document your child chooses an “agent” to make medical decisions for them in the event they are unable to do so and provides the agent with guidance that is helpful in making informed decisions based on the child’s specified preferences.

3. General Durable Power of Attorney

An Advance Health Care Directive is limited to health care decisions. It does not give you (or another agent) permission to make financial or legal decisions for your child if they are incapacitated. For that, your child must have a General Durable Power of Attorney. With this document, you can, among other things, access their bank accounts, pay their bills, apply for (or break) a lease, apply for loans or government benefits, file their income tax returns and even manage their digital assets.

For more information or to get started on an estate plan for your college-bound student, contact Laura Adell at Adell Law Offices. She can be reached by telephone at (818) 883-9272 or by email at