How to Protect Your Kids After They Turn 18
Estate Planning for Young Adults and College Students
Estate planning is usually considered an “end-of-life” consideration. It is also often overlooked or assumed it is not needed if you do not have children or many assets. However, estate planning is essential for any adult, at any stage of their life. It is even more important when a young adult is heading off to college where they are no longer under their parents’ wings.
The beauty of estate planning is that it can, and should be, easily revisited and modified. Updating things like agents, surrogates, and beneficiary designations are simple revisions that can be made after a major life event, such as birth, death, marriage, or divorce. Putting a plan in place today means there is one less thing for you and your family to worry about if the unthinkable happens.
Access to Medical Records
Once a child turns 18, a parent’s right to control things (even if in their child’s best interest) is extremely limited. The parents can no longer make decisions simply because they are the parents. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provisions restrict access to important medical information without proper authorization by the patient. This can place the parents and other loved ones in a difficult situation if access is needed quickly to make an informed decision for medical emergencies.
The young adult can also name one or more surrogates who will have the final decision as to any medical decision that must be made if they are unable to decide for themselves. This allows medical professionals to have one single person to speak to for that final decision in a time where decisions must be made quickly, and emotions will be high.
Access to Financials
It is also important to provide authorization for someone that is trusted to act on your behalf in many different scenarios. Most helpful for young adults is the agent’s ability to make payments for things such as credit cards, rent, utilities, tuition, etc. A POA also helps create some financial independence for young adults, allowing their parents to be removed as joint account holders for those “just in case” scenarios.
Three Estate Planning Documents Every Young Adult Needs
- HIPAA Authorization – This is a signed form allowing medical professionals to release all medical records to the named individuals. This is especially important as it provides immediate access for information that may be needed when making a time-sensitive decision.
- Designation of Health Care Surrogate (HCS) – This document allows the young adult to decide who can make medical decisions for them when they are unable, and in what order. It also gives medical providers a single point of contact for final decisions.
- Durable Power of Attorney (POA) – A POA ensures that there is someone who can step in and handle your affairs in case of an emergency. Some examples of authority given are financial transactions, access accounts, and signing documents on your behalf.
Honorable Mention – Last Will & Testament – While not every young adult may need a Will, it is especially important in certain circumstances. For example, if a young adult has no minor children, their biological parents will automatically inherit under Florida law. If this is not what the young adult wishes to happen to their assets upon their death, a Will may be necessary. Most often, young adults want a Will in the case of a blended or non-traditional family.
The bottom line – it’s never too early to start an estate plan! If you or your child are interested in speaking with an attorney regarding estate planning for young adults or college students, please contact our office to schedule your free consultation.