Estate Planning for Your Child Going to College in Palm Springs, California

Many California students who recently graduated from high school are heading off to college and starting a new life chapter. Estate planning for your child going to college should include preparing an advance healthcare directive, a will, and a power of attorney. Once your child turns 18 in California, they are considered legal adults and are legally responsible for making their own decisions.

If you are a parent whose child has reached adulthood and is leaving for college, we recommend helping your child create some essential estate planning documents. Attorney Christopher Heritage has helped many college students in Palm Springs and throughout Southern California get their affairs in order so they can head off to college worry-free. He often represents clients throughout many stages of life, helping them protect themselves and prepare for the future. Contact Heritage Legal, PC, to schedule a consultation and learn more.

Why Do College Students Need Estate Planning Documents?

Creating an estate plan for an 18-year-old may seem like it's not necessary. After all, the majority of 18-year-olds do not have any significant assets. However, a well-drafted estate plan can help put parents' minds at ease in an already exciting but often stressful time. Neglecting an estate plan can be detrimental, especially if a health emergency should occur. An estate plan isn't exclusively about the disposition of a person's property when they pass away. Estate planning also encompasses estate management and decision-making regarding your child's assets.

For example, suppose your child is involved in a car accident and unable to communicate their wishes regarding medical treatment. In that case, you may have to wait for the court to appoint a healthcare agent, making an already stressful situation even more stressful. Additionally, once a child turns 18, they are a legal adult entitled to manage their financial affairs. As a parent, you may have previously been able to access your child's financial, medical, and educational information and act on their behalf. Still, your ability to do so will significantly diminish once the child turns 18.

Advance Healthcare Directive

An advance healthcare directive is one of the most important documents your child should have before they head off to college. An advance healthcare directive allows your child to appoint someone as their power of attorney for healthcare decisions. If your child becomes incapacitated and unable to make his or her own medical decisions, a power of attorney can step in and make those decisions on his or her behalf.

Healthcare agents are authorized to consent or withdraw medical treatment, admit or discharge a person from the hospital, and employ or discharge medical providers. In serious medical situations, the healthcare directive also allows an agent to make decisions regarding withdrawing life support if an individual has a terminal illness with no reasonable chance of recovery. Thinking about these difficult situations can be challenging, especially for a young and vibrant 18-year-old. However, it's better to be prepared and think about these issues now than be ill-prepared in an emergency situation, making the situation even more difficult for everyone involved.

HIPAA Authorization

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act protects patients' privacy. Without HIPAA authorization, you may be unable to access your child's medical information if they are in an emergency. Parents should consider having their child sign a HIPAA authorization just in case they need to talk to their child's doctor about his or her condition, care, and medical treatment. A HIPAA authorization form ready in an emergency allows parents to begin understanding their child's medical condition with doctors immediately.

Financial Power of Attorney

An advance healthcare directive only gives the agent authority to make decisions about a person's medical care and treatment. It's also important to have financial power of attorney. A financial power of attorney is a legal document that allows a person to appoint an attorney-in-fact to access and make decisions about their financial affairs. Most college students only have a checking and savings account and may own a vehicle. Suppose they are involved in an accident or cannot pay their bills and manage their financial assets. In that case, a financial power of attorney allows you to step in and help them manage their property.

Last Will and Testament

Most college-age students have minimal assets. For example, when a student only has a bank account and savings account, designating a beneficiary on their accounts may be sufficient. The account assets will be automatically passed to the named beneficiary by operation of law. However, many college-aged students have tangible personal property such as collection items and jewelry that they may want to leave to specific family or friends. Creating a last will and testament could be useful.

Additionally, if a college student has a pet, he or she may want to designate whom they would like to leave their pet with, should they pass away. Creating a last will and testament can be beneficial as a student heads off to college. Unless they experienced a major life change, their last will and testament will remain in effect and be set when they graduate college and begin their career.

FERPA Waiver

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act limits how colleges release educational records for enrolled students. A college-aged child may desire to allow his or her parents to access their educational records in an emergency or a private family agreement. Signing a FERPA waiver allows parents to access their child's academic records.

Reach Out to a Palm Springs Estate Planning Attorney Today

As parents, seeing your child go off to college can be difficult. Working with an attorney to ensure they are protected through an estate plan can help you and your child rest more easily. For more information about estate planning for college students and ways you can legally protect your child who's away at school, contact Heritage Legal, PC, to schedule an initial consultation. Attorney Christopher Heritage has extensive knowledge of California estate planning laws and represents clients in all stages of life in Palm Springs and throughout Southern California.

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