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Education Planning:
Legal Documents Every College Student Should Have

As the dog days of summer start to fade into thoughts of fall, you realize that back to school will look radically different this year as your child is heading to college. It seems like just yesterday you were buying school supplies like glue and blunt tip scissors, and now it’s college era, with all the education planning included! So bittersweet – proud and nostalgic at the same time. You make a mental list of all the undertakings you have to do as you send your child on their way to the university. The prerequisite trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond to outfit their dorm room, pack the family car to full capacity, give the,” make good choices” lecture, tearful (on your part) goodbye in front of the dorm and finally trip to the lawyer’s office to get legal documents drafted…wait…what? Legal documents? Yes, no matter how many conversations you have with your friends about how the brain isn’t fully developed until age 25, the law says your teen IS an adult, with all the privacy rights that accompany adult status, at age 18. What that means is even as a parent if a tragic event befalls your child you may not be able to get timely information, make medical decisions, or even be able to address financial dealings for them in the event they cannot.

An estate planning attorney will be the best resource to advise the documents that you should have drafted to cover your child’s needs. I have listed the typical recommended legal documents and their purpose below:

HIPPA Authorization

  • A HIPAA Authorization Form will allow parents to get information about their child’s health and treatment.
  • This document lets a patient (your college student) designate family members, or others of their choice who can be updated about their medical info during treatment.

Health Care Proxy

  • A Health Care Proxy, sometimes called a Health Care Power of Attorney or Durable Medical Power of Attorney, allows parents to make medical decisions on the child’s behalf if the child is unable to make such decisions due to being incapacitated.
  • For example, this document would allow you to make the choice of who provides care to your child.

Power Of Attorney

  • A Durable Power of Attorney would provide a parent with the authority to handle financial and legal matters on the child’s behalf if the child is incapacitated, traveling or deployed.
  • The document would allow the parent to pay bills, file tax returns, terminate contracts and even apply for government benefits if you child is unable.
  • Deal with landlords or creditors or your child’s behalf.
  • If your child is attending a college out-of-state, it may be necessary to execute the forms in both states.

While none of these topics make for pleasant discussions with your teen, they are important for planning for unexpected events and are a great lesson of responsibility in early adulthood. Like packing an umbrella for a family outing in hopes you never use it, it is the same with these documents. You can sleep better knowing you have addressed this important issue and are navigating your child on their road to independence while ensuring you will be a trusted resource for them when they need it most.

These forms should be prepared and signed before the child goes off to college.

In some cases, the documents may need to be notarized and signed in the presence of witnesses who are not family members.

Now that’s all done – go about turning your child’s bedroom into your new yoga studio!

About the Author: Maggi Keating, CFP®
Maggi brings over 24 years of financial industry experience to her practice. Maggi values her client relationships and delights in her role as an educator to her clients, helping them create tangible goals for their financial life. Prior to joining FBB Capital Partners, Maggi spent 12 years at Charles Schwab & Co., Inc., specializing in assisting families and high net worth individuals and foundations. Maggi holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Radford University and is a Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner and a NAPFA associate with the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA). Maggi and her husband Pete, a retired Marine Corps Colonel, live in her native Virginia. As the parent of two children, Maggi is very active in their sports activities.

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