Death can strike anyone at any time.
It does not afflict only the old and feeble.
Death can come unexpectedly even to young, vibrant college students.
We see this all the time.
College Students, Death, and Estate Planning
Remember child star Matthew Mindler? He starred in the hit comedy, “Our Idiot Brother” in addition to a number of T.V. shows. But at the age of 19, as a first-year student in Millersville University, Matthew went missing.
He was last seen walking across campus.
Several days later he was found dead.
Going off to college is an exciting and wonderful time. And nothing should take away from that.
Nevertheless, we all still need to face and prepare for one of life’s harshest realities: that death comes to all of us.
Even college students.
According to reports, most college students die from some type of accident —including car accidents and non-vehicular accidents.
In other words, the unexpected happens all the time. So before your young adult goes off to college, it makes sense to prepare.
One fact of life that both college-age children and their parents often fail to properly consider before a child leaves for college is that once a child turns 18, he or she is considered an adult. While this is great and comes with many privileges, it has its responsibilities too.
For parents who are used to filling out permission slips and taking their children to the doctor, this can be particularly frustrating. Once your child turns 18, you can’t get immunization records and health forms filled out by the doctor or make a credit card or utility payment for your child, unless you have the documents we talk about below. Doctors won’t talk to you, and you will not be allowed to access your child’s accounts.
Once a child turns 18, parents no longer have any rights over the child’s finances or medical records.
Not having any control over your child’s finances can be problematic especially if your child had a Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) account which was created for him/her before he turned 18. Once the child turns 18, the UTMA account will be retitled in the child’s name. And, unless your child agrees to use the money as you want him to (for example, to pay for college), like it or not, your child can do what he/she wants with that money.
3 Critical Estate Planning Documents for College Students.
With the following 3 critical estate planning documents in place, you can step in and make vital medical decisions for your college-age child, if necessary, or help with their finances.
And the best part?
Your young adult gets to make the initial decisions regarding his finances and potential medical interventions, and you can both have peace of mind that comes with knowing you have done all you can to prepare for the unexpected.
A Living Will
Not to be confused with a Last Will and Testament (“Will”), a living will is a legal document that details an individual’s end-of-life medical decisions with respect to life support. It states a person’s wishes with regard to medical care and interventions (like feeding tubes) in the event that person becomes incapacitated, is on life support, and cannot speak for himself/herself.
In Florida, living wills are frequently used in conjunction with a health care surrogate designation appointing a specific person responsible for carrying out the individual’s end-of-life decisions.
Having a living will is important in the event your college student is subject to a catastrophic event, becomes incapacitated or is in a vegetative state. It specifically states whether your young adult wants life support, and all possible efforts made to keep him/her alive —or not.
A living will keeps everyone from guessing and fighting over medical interventions.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of a person’s medical information.
The problem with this is that when your young adult goes off to college, you, as the parent, no longer have the right to be informed of your child’s medical conditions and the HIPPA laws make it almost impossible for you to do so.
As a result, you will want to have your child execute a HIPPA authorization giving you the authority to gain access to his/her medical information in the event of an emergency.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney gives you the authority to manage your child’s finances in the event he is unable to do so. This can be especially helpful if you need to assist your child with expenses such as credit card debt or rent, or if your child does a semester abroad and you need to send him/her money.
Without a durable power of attorney, you cannot access your child’s accounts and cannot help with his/her finances.
Going off to college should be a time of excitement and joy. But it still pays to be prepared for the unexpected.
Before your child goes off to college, speak with an experienced probate lawyer and get the documents you need to give you peace of mind.
College Student Trusts & Estates Lawyer in Florida
At SJF Law Group, we expertly guide individuals through the complex probate process, and capably handle all aspects of the creation, administration, and settlement of estates and trusts. We work hard to ensure that your wishes will be followed, and your loved ones taken care of when you are gone. When you work with the estate planning attorneys at SJF Law Group, you get more than just an estate plan: you get peace of mind. Contact us here or email us at: [email protected].