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Estate Planning for the College Student- Not just for Retirees Anymore

Estate Planning, including the drafting of Advance Directives such as a Power of Attorney, HIPPA Authorization or Health Care Proxy, is often thought of as a task for retirees. However, the importance of having advance directives in place for young adults in college cannot be overstated! Once a child turns 18, he or she is considered a legal adult and your rights to access that child’s private medical and educational information is terminated. Although hard to consider, if tragedy strikes your young adult and you as a parent need to access his or her confidential information or make medical decisions on your young adult’s behalf, the law may prevent you from doing so unless your young adult has the appropriate documents in place. Therefore, at a minimum, every young adult should consider executing a HIPAA authorization, Health Care Proxy and Power of Attorney to allow for the involvement of a parent or trusted adult in a medical emergency. If the young adult is also a college student, he or she should also complete a Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) Authorization allowing a parent or trusted adult access to his or her educational records.

So what do these documents allow? A HIPAA Authorization allows a healthcare provider to disclose an individual’s confidential medical information to the adult (“Agent”) named on the form. Significantly, this form can be drafted as broadly or narrowly as the young adult wishes and can exclude disclosure of specific information which the young adult may want to keep private. It can also be drafted to terminate upon a specific date or occasion, such as graduation from college.

A Health Care Proxy is also critical in cases of emergency. This document allows the named agent to make medical decisions on behalf of the young adult when and if they become incapacitated and are unable to make said decisions for themselves.

A young adult should also consider executing a Power of Attorney, which could enable a parent or trusted adult to perform necessary tasks, such as pay bills and sign tax returns, on behalf of the young adult. This is particularly useful for college students who do not attend school in their home state but who nevertheless have business which must be conducted there. In addition, students attending school in a state other than their home state should consider executing advance directives in the state in which they attend school to avoid any potential issues in times of crisis.

A FERPA Authorization, permitting a parent or other trusted adult access to a young adult's educational records can be especially important during times of difficulty for students attending a post-secondary institution.

Don’t let the absence of advance directives prevent you from continuing to assist your young adult in times of need. If you are the parent of a college-age student, you should consider consulting with an attorney about the importance of putting advance directives in place for your young adult. The attorneys at Fitzgerald & Sadove PLLC would be happy to meet with you to discuss planning for you and your young adult.


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