Are you getting ready to take your child to college this fall? If so, you should know that many of the rights you had regarding your child may be gone once your son or daughter turns 18. That can be a scary thought. However, the law in many instances have cut you off from acting on behalf of your young adult.
Many states consider an individual to be an adult when they reach their 18th birthday. With that in mind, your child can go off to college, you pay all the bills for tuition, room and board, but have no rights to their medical, financial or school records.
I remember my freshman year in college. I was able to seek medical care on my own and make significant decisions about my care all because I was now grown in the eyes of the law. In addition, I could get credit cards from major lenders and retail stores without parental consent and no credit history. For all intents and purposes, I was an adult. Contrary to where we are today in this society, when I started college there were fewer privacy laws around. There was less red tape to get through if my parents had needed to step in and handle things for me.
There are many privacy laws today that make it very difficult for parents to access information regarding their child without proper documentation. Thus, if your child has some basic estate planning items in place, this step may facilitate your ability to access records and obtain information.
What if your child gets injured while at school playing a sport, trying out for the band or is involved in a car accident? You may have difficulty getting information regarding the extent of your child’s injuries. Hospitals and medical personnel are trained to protect an individual’s privacy and many refuse to give out information without some sort of written authorization.
Probably the last thing your teenager is thinking about right now is an estate plan. It sounds strange to mention young adults and estate planning in the same article. However, the reality for many people is that your child is an adult in many states when they turn 18 years old and your parental rights no longer exist.
So when you go out to purchase all the things on the college checklist, think about what else your child may need:
- Twin Sheet Sets – (Extra Long)
- College Ruled Notebooks
- Pens and Pencils
- Laundry Supplies
- Estate Plan – basic documents:
- Durable Financial Power of Attorney
- Advance Medical Directive with Living Will
These documents will give your child the ability to: indicate how they would like to have their assets distributed; authorize an individual to handle financial matters on their behalf; and, appoint an individual to make medical decisions for them. Please know that estate planning is a case by case situation. There is no one size fits all. Thus, your child may need additional documents depending on their unique circumstances.
Now that you have all the items on the college check list, get back to enjoying the summer with your child. Time flies and your young adult will be off to college soon.
On July 10, 2017, this article was edited. An adapted version of this article is posted on LinkedIn.
This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice. Consult with an estate planning attorney about your particular situation.
Aquanetta J. Betts, is an attorney licensed in Washington, DC and Maryland – www.abettslaw.com. Her practice focuses on wills, trusts and estates. Connect with her on Twitter @AquanettaBetts.
2 thoughts on “Should an Estate Plan be on Your Child’s College Checklist”
This is a great article. These days, doctors, hospitals, and other medical care providers are so fearful of being sued or disciplined for violating a patient’s privacy, that parents of children who have reached the age of majority are commonly denied access to medical information about their own children. This can be extremely troubling during difficult circumstances when a child has been seriously injured or suffered a major medical event.
It’s also a great lesson in responsibility for young people who have reached the age of majority in their jurisdiction. Estate planning forces young people to begin to consider how major events in their life can affect the lives of other people (i.e., loved ones, family, friends, etc.).
All competent adults, regardless of age or financial circumstances need an estate plan in place which is tailored to their unique circumstances. When estate planning is started at a young age and and the plan is updated as major life events occur (i.e., marriage/divorce, move to another state, birth/adoption of children, etc.), it will serve that individual and their loved ones well.
Thanks Jason for the great comments. This is a topic that many families will face due to the increasing complexity of privacy laws. I appreciate the discussion.