As your child heads off to college, you may have a lot on your mind. Not only is the process of choosing and applying to college a stressful one, but the campus visits and Target shopping sprees in preparation for their segue into higher learning can leave you feeling overwhelmed and emotionally drained. While we don’t want to add another stressor to your plate, there is one important college planning to-do that is too often overlooked: estate planning.
You have spent the majority of your life making medical, legal and financial decisions for your child, but once your child reaches the age of majority—18 in most states (19 in Alabama) —you will lose that control. Without a healthcare proxy, durable power of attorney and HIPAA authorization, you may not be able to gain access to their medical records or finances…even if you are largely responsible for funding their college education!
Estate planning for 19-year-olds is much less complicated than planning for those who are married, have children, or have accrued a complex array of assets. However, it is equally important to do so. If your child is involved in an accident and becomes incapacitated, having these three essential documents in place will ensure that (a.) you have access to their medical records and (b.) are able to make medical and legal decisions for them.
If your child is injured or becomes seriously ill to the point they are unable to make their own medical decisions, you will not automatically be allowed to make those decisions for them. By drafting a healthcare proxy (also referred to as a medical power of attorney or advanced medical directive) your child can grant you access to their medical records, and legal rights to make medical decisions on their behalf. Without a healthcare proxy in place, you may need to petition the courts to gain access to your child’s medical records, or to make healthcare decisions on their behalf.
HIPAA regulations prohibit the disclosure of medical records, and, as a result, deny parents’ access to such information for their adult child. Due to this, parents should obtain a blanket HIPAA authorization from their child if they want the option of being apprised of their adult child’s health records. The HIPAA release is an important part of the estate planning process and may be incorporated into the health care proxy.
Durable Power of Attorney
The durable power of attorney is similar in function to the healthcare proxy. It will allow your child to name an agent—you, or another trusted family member—who can make financial and legal decisions on their behalf, should they become unable to do so. Many parents don’t think their adult children have enough financial resources to warrant a need for a durable power of attorney, however without this important document, you will not be able to communicate with banks, universities, or other related institutions on their behalf…even if you are the one footing the bill for their college education!
These estate planning documents are relatively quick and painless to create. Your college-aged child will only need to make a few decisions about who they want to name as appointees. Hopefully none of these documents will be needed, but if unexpected tragedy strikes, you’ll be glad you have them on-hand.
Contact Miller Estate & Elder Law
At Miller Estate & Elder Law, we can make the process of drafting a healthcare proxy, durable power of attorney, and HIPAA authorization fast and efficient. Contact us using the brief form below and a member of our team will reach out to schedule an initial consultation.