May is traditionally the time for graduation ceremonies. Children are completing their last year of high school, receiving their diplomas and before their parents know it, their last summer has raced by and they will be headed off to college in the fall.
If you are getting your child ready to go off to college, you already know that it can be a hectic and emotionally charged time. It’s easy to be completely overwhelmed by the experience and forget that this is one of those big life changes that require you to update your estate plan as soon as possible.
As the parent of a soon to be college freshman, there are a few important things you need to add to your to-do list:
- Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care: Once your child turns 18 years old, your decision-making role as their parent decreases significantly, particularly for healthcare decisions. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst by having a durable power of attorney in place. If an accident, illness, etc. occurs and your child is unable to make their own healthcare decisions, you will not be able to make medical decisions on your child’s behalf without a durable power of attorney naming you as health care agents.
- HIPPA Authorization: Including a HIPPA authorization form alongside the health care power of attorney described above allows parents (designated as health care agents) to communicate with healthcare professionals and insurance companies on their child’s behalf. Having access to your child’s health records and history of treatment information creates the opportunity to make an informed medical decision if it becomes necessary.
- Durable Power of Attorney for Finances and Property: The financial power of attorney is similar to the health care power of attorney except it focuses on providing parents with the ability to make financial decisions on their child’s behalf if they are unable to make the decision on their own. If the child is to become incapacitated in any way, having a durable power of attorney for finances and property in place would enable parents to continue to pay the rent, utilities, and other bills on their child’s behalf as well as allowing access to bank accounts, loans, and other financial records.
- FERPA Release: Designed to protect a college student’s privacy, The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) can leave parents blocked from access to important information in a time of emergency. Including a carefully worded FERPA release in estate planning documents gives parents the right to talk to the college administration and access relevant information and educational records if it becomes necessary.
- Last Will & Testament: No one wants to think about creating a will for their child, but it’s a very important document to add to the estate plan. This document will allow parents to honor their child’s wishes regarding many issues, including bank accounts, personal assets, social media, etc. It also presents the opportunity for the child to specify their preferred type of funeral arrangements in writing.
If you have questions about necessary estate planning documents or if you need assistance drafting any of the above documents, please get in touch with one of the experienced California estate planning attorneys at The Law Office of Janet L. Brewer.