For most 18-year-olds getting ready to head off to college, planning for potential incapacity or death is the farthest thing from their minds. As the school year comes to an end here in Florida, parents will be helping graduating seniors get ready for their futures by helping them prepare to leave home and be on their own. One thing young people and their parents should not ignore, however, is some aspects of estate planning. Even if the student's only assets are some clothes, a cell phone and a gaming system; estate planning is a useful tool.
Parents sometimes don't realize that if their college-bound child gets seriously ill or incapacitated, they may not be allowed to see medical records or make decisions regarding that child's healthcare. After all, college students are generally 18 or older, and the law treats them as adults. Absent specific legal permissions, federal laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) limit who may have access to an adult's medical records or make decisions for them. Luckily, there are ways that students and their parents can remedy this situation.
By executing legal documents such as healthcare directives, a healthcare proxy and a living will, students can ensure that their wishes are known and followed in case of incapacity. They can designate parents or guardians to make important decisions. Also, a power of attorney can be used to give trusted individuals the ability to access funds that may otherwise be unavailable.
No one likes to contemplate their mortality, especially those just starting out on their own independent lives. However, unforeseen events such as serious illness or traffic accidents can happen to anyone, regardless of age or feelings of invulnerability. Though such events cannot be completely prevented, it is prudent to plan to minimize the effects they may have.
Source: nbcnews.com, "Even young adults should start estate planning," Sheyna Steiner, May 6, 2013