August means “back to school” time for many families. That often translates to a lot of shopping, whether it’s new clothes, new books or new computers, especially if your child is preparing to go away to college. For those families, though, their focus should be on more than just providing their children with the tools they need to succeed in class. A child’s turning 18 carries with it significant legal repercussions and, especially if that child is leaving home for college, the need for estate planning becomes very important.
Estate planning may hardly sound like an urgent need for a young person in their late teens or early 20s, but some basic estate planning for your child can help avoid some extremely thorny and entirely avoidable complications should your child suffer a traumatic injury or illness. These events happen with some frequency on college campuses. The State of New Jersey declared a meningitis outbreak at Princeton University this past spring. A month earlier, a UW-Madison student died of the same disease.
Whether it is disease or injury, college students face a real risk of incurring harm that renders them incapacitated. If that happens, and the child has no estate planning documents, the child’s parents legally have no say in the child’s medical treatment, unless they obtain legal guardianship over the child by going to court. In fact, in accordance with HIPAA law, the child’s doctors may even refuse to discuss the child’s medical care with the parents at all. As a parent, you may be unable to even find out if your child has been admitted to a particular hospital. While medical professionals may sometimes be willing to speak with (or take direction from) parents, even without legal documents, having these documents prevents you from leaving this up to a doctor or hospital who may or may not choose not to cooperate.
With some simple estate planning, these complexities are avoidable. With a Durable Health Care Power of Attorney with HIPAA Authorization, your child can empower you to receive information about their medical care and make decisions regarding what kinds of treatment he/she will or will not receive.
While having a Health Care Power of Attorney is essential in the event of medical emergency, as obtaining proper medical care for your child is the most pressing objective, your child’s needs do not end there and neither should their estate planning documents. A Durable Power of Attorney for Finances will allow your child to authorize you (or whomever they name), to manage their financial matters, including ensuring that the child’s recurring bills are timely paid.
A college student’s needs might not seem to include estate planning, but it is a true “ounce of prevention” that can save your family enormous stress. To get the best personalized advice about powers of attorney, contact Madison estate planning attorney Daniel J. Krause of Estate Law Partners, LLC. He has the skills and experience to help your family ensure that each of you is prepared for any contingency that could cross your college student’s path.
Contact us through our website or call our office at (608) 292-5185 to schedule your confidential, no obligation initial consultation.