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Protecting Your College Student with Estate Planning

Estate Planning is often thought of as a near end-of-life task. There is no better time to create a Will for your college student than now.

Today, more than ever before, Estate Planning is an undeniably powerful way to plan for the future. This rings true even when we’re talking about your adult child’s future. Putting plans in place today means one less thing to worry about tomorrow - and if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that as parents, we have enough to worry about!  

Despite the fact that once they’re officially an adult and you’re no longer legally responsible for them, most college students need guidance in navigating some of the legal aspects of adulthood. The good news is you can help your child with their Estate Plan, so they’re set up for the unexpected when it comes to anything from personal finances to stressful medical decisions. 

Wondering how an Estate Plan can help provide security for those you love more than anything else in the world? Read on, as we cover everything you need to know about college student wills and Estate Planning for young adult children. We’ll cover: 

Importance of Estate Planning for a College Student

By the time your children turn 18, they’re ready to take the world by storm. And you’ve probably already considered a lot when it comes to your own Estate Planning. Things like what happens to your estate after you pass have very likely already been decided. But it’s easy to forget to shift gears and start thinking about our children as adults.   

And the truth is, while the perception of Estate Planning is often that it’s a near end-of-life task, the earlier you start, the better. Now is the time to start an Estate Plan for your college student. Remember, you can easily modify an Estate Plan at any time (and you should, too, at every major life event, like starting college, getting married or divorced, a new birth or death). Updating things like Beneficiary Designations and Advance Directives as age and status change can be simple. Depending on the route you take to create your Estate Plan (traditional, with costly and time-consuming lawyers, or streamlined, efficient and cost-effective, with a trusted online service like Trust & Will), it doesn’t necessarily need to be a burdensome process, either. 

Bottom line, it’s never too early to start an Estate Plan...they’re not set in stone, and they set you up for the unforeseen. 

Why Estate Planning for your college student is crucial

Estate Planning benefits young adults in a variety of ways. Perhaps most importantly, it allows you and your family to make important medical decisions and to identify financial priorities before the time comes they’re needed. Formally and legally planning for your college student’s future is essential for a number of reasons. 

You can gain access to medical records if needed: Keep in mind, once your child turns 18, your right to control things (even if you intend to act in a child’s best interest) becomes extremely limited. You’ll no longer have authority to make medical decisions, “just because you’re the parent.” 

HIPAA provisions restrict your access to important medical information, which can be devastating if you’re ever in the terrible position of needing to act quickly on your child’s behalf in a medical scenario. 

Most parents assume that if their child is still on their insurance plan (as most college students are), they’re protected. This is not the case. And if a student is away at college, perhaps far from home, and the unthinkable happens, the last thing you want to be faced with is fighting to gain access when immediate decisions need to be made. 

You can gain access to financial information if needed: In addition to healthcare and medical scenarios, should your child become unable to make financial decisions for themselves, without the proper paperwork in place, you will likely have a very difficult time accessing bank accounts or making other financial transactions for your child. You could spend an exorbitant amount of time fighting to be able to handle financial affairs, which is the last thing you’ll want to be dealing with.

Access to bank and credit card accounts and other financial records can be critical if you need to step in on your child’s behalf. You may find you need to make credit card payments, pay rent or utilities or make tuition payments.  

Estate Planning: What Every College Student Needs in Place

There are three essential documents that are an absolute must before your child sets off on that monumental right of passage known as college. 

  1. HIPAA Authorization - Having a signed HIPAA Authorization form means doctors and other medical professionals will be able to legally share potentially-critical information with you about your child’s health status. This can be incredibly important should the time ever come where important decisions need to be quickly made.

  2. Healthcare Power of Attorney (POA) - Healthcare POAs can appoint you as an agent with the authority to make medical and healthcare-related decisions for your child. With a Healthcare POA in place, you can decide on doctors and course of care, among other important things when often, time is of the essence.

  3. Durable Power of Attorney (POA) - Durable POA assures you’ll be able to step in and make even non healthcare-related decisions on your child’s behalf. The most important aspect of this document is it grants you the important ability to make financial decisions and transactions, access accounts and sign documents for your child should you need to. The “Durable” part is key here, because it stays in place and means you can make decisions even after incapacitation.

Other Considerations

FERPA Waiver: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is designed for student privacy but can allow parents or guardians access to private educational information like transcripts and grades in the event of an emergency.

A Will: Setting up a Will for your adult child might seem hard, but it’s actually a necessity. They are legal adults and will likely start to acquire assets even while in college. Additionally, most children are Beneficiaries of your estate, so you can help secure your assets by planning your adult children’s Will.

Legal Assurance: Estate Planning can be difficult and sometimes confusing. There’s a lot at stake. Completing paperwork incorrectly could have dire consequences. Using a trusted online Estate Planning tool like Trust & Will, which provides legal information from Estate Planning attorneys, can help guide you along the way as you make these important decisions.

Starting your child on the road to Estate Planning means having those tough conversations. You can understand their goals, their life vision, but most importantly, you’re modeling for them part of what being an adult means. You’re thinking about and making those hard life decisions that so many of us often avoid. You’re teaching them one of the last lessons you owe them: how to be a responsible adult. And that may just be the most important lesson of all. 

Reach out to Trust & Will today to learn more about our Estate Planning options for young adults.