A typical college-bound student’s packing list will include various “essential items” such as a mini-fridge, laptop computer, cell phone, clothes, and shower shoes. An estate plan is probably the most “essential” item that will protect your college student and provide you peace of mind.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents have expressed concern about how best to assure that they can speak to medical professionals on their adult child’s behalf if that child needs medical assistance, either due to COVID-related illness or in the event of an accident that leaves them medically incapacitated. Without your adult child giving you the legal authority through estate planning, you are unable to help them to coordinate testing, access medical records, and provide input to the medical staff. Without these documents, probate court involvement may be required, which: a) can be costly and time-consuming, especially for students attending out-of-state schools; and b) leaves the court, rather than your child, with the authority to appoint who it deems appropriate to make any necessary decisions.
For this reason, signing estate planning documents such as a Durable Power of Attorney and Patient Advocate Designation are “essential items” for your adult children to accomplish before leaving home so you are able to step in and help when needed.
The best way to assure that parents can have access to their adult student’s doctors and medical records – and are able to authorize or provide input on medical treatment – is to have the student sign a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances (“DPOA”) and a Patient Advocate Designation (“PAD”). A DPOA 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). A PAD appoints an individual of your child’s choosing to make medical decisions on their behalf if they are unable to do so.
Also, if your adult child has acquired assets or plans to acquire assets in the near future, your child might consider obtaining a Will and/or Trust. An individual’s Last Will and Testament appoints a Personal Representative to transfer assets if needed upon death and a Trust is sometimes used to supplement that Will for probate avoidance purposes.More Publications