“Many people, when they think about estate planning, think it’s a way of giving away their stuff,” says Deborah Jacobs, author of Estate Planning Smarts.  There are some aspects of estate planning, though, that have nothing to do with stuff, she explains.  In fact, there are two estate planning documents that Jacobs recommends parents get their 18-year olds to sign before they go off to college!

Just as Jacobs reminds her readers to be prepared, at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates we often remind clients that life events often happen without warning.  College is certainly one of those life events where the unexpected occurs.  Students may need assistance paying bills or may be injured and need medical care while at school.  If a child is over the age of 18, doctors are prohibited from speaking to the child’s parents about the child’s medical condition unless the child has signed a Healthcare Proxy and HIPAA Release allowing them to do so.  Due to these potential issues, it is recommended that all individuals over the age of 18 have the following documents in place:

1. Durable power of attorney: This document gives someone authority to step into your shoes to handle financial matters if you, for any reason, can’t do it for yourself, even temporarily.

2. Healthcare proxy:  This authorizes someone to make decisions about your medical care if you can’t. Today most hospitals ask for this document when someone is admitted, and provide a standard form for a patient to fill out if they don’t already have a healthcare proxy.

(The legal age in the state of Indiana – as in most other states – is 18 for the purpose of contracting, and hence for signing one’s own estate planning documents.)

It’s interesting that under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA),  when a student enters a postsecondary institution at any age, the rights under FERPA transfer from the parents to the student, making an all the more compelling argument for a student to have properly signed and executed “estate planning” documents in place.

“College is full of hazards. Most are due to stupidity, but they’re hazards nonetheless,” says ihelploan.comhttp://ihelploan.com/blog/2012/03/21/5-ways-college-prepares-you-for-real-life/
.  “The lessons you learn through trial and error during your college years will prepare you for life in “the real world.” Having the proper legal documents in place for those “just in case” times should be part of the learning process.