As many parents help their college students pack for a dorm room or apartment, they are focused on the obvious essentials like a mini fridge, laptop, bedding, and cleaning supplies.

Have you ever stopped to consider that as your children turn 18 they become legal adults? Our laws afford 18-year-olds more freedom and responsibility while decreasing the parents’ legal authority and control over their adult children. This is the age at which estate planning documents become necessary and important. Without your adult child giving you the legal authority through proper estate planning, you may be unable to help them with their routine and emergency financial or medical needs. For this reason, signing estate planning documents such as a Durable Power of Attorney and Patient Advocate Designation are “essential items” for your college students to add to their packing list.

There are many documented cases of young adults having medical emergencies and the hospital refusing the parents’ access, information, and (potentially lifesaving) input. These situations can be easily avoided with a signed Durable Power of Attorney and Patient Advocate Designation.

Durable Power of Attorney

A Durable Power of Attorney designates who can help your child with financial matters. This could be for any reason (such as a simple trip out of town or handling insurance claims after an accident).

Patient Advocate Designation

A Patient Advocate Designation appoints an individual of your child’s choosing to make medical decisions on their behalf if they are unable to do so.  If your young adult becomes incapacitated due to an accident or illness and has not done estate planning, no one will have automatic legal authority to jump in and provide input to the medical staff.  Instead, probate court involvement may be required; this can be costly and leaves the court, rather than your child, with the authority to appoint who it deems appropriate to make any necessary decisions.

If your adult child has acquired assets or plans to acquire assets soon, your child might also consider obtaining a Will and/or Trust.  An individual’s Last Will and Testament appoint a Personal Representative to handle asset transfer needs upon death. A Trust is sometimes used to supplement that Will for probate avoidance purposes.

To take care of these crucial estate planning documents before school begins or while your college student is home on break, please connect with a member of the Rhoades McKee Estate Planning Group.

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