Top Estate Planning Documents a Student May Need

When your child is in college, you may not think that estate planning is something to think about. Even if the young student is 18, you may have the idea that estate planning is reserved for the elderly or the wealthy. But that is not true – estate planning can be done by anyone who is considered a legal adult.

pen near black lined paper and eyeglasses

Although nobody expects a healthy young person to pass away, terrible things can happen anytime, such as car accidents, natural disasters, or others. When the child passes away, having their assets distributed accordingly is a must and the only way to do this is by having the college student work on an estate plan as soon as possible.

Estate planning is a complex process that requires various documents. But which documents are necessary to make it effective? Here are the top estate planning documents that a student may need.

Living Will

A living will is a document that explains how a person should be taken care of and how the assets should be handled when they are alive, but unconscious or incapacitated. It’s different from a last will/testament which offers instructions on what to do after a person passes away.

So, it’s something that your student child should have in case they are hit by a terminal illness or are injured in a terrible accident. They may end up being unconscious, or they may be unable to do anything following the incident.

A living will can let you know what medical decisions to take on the child’s behalf in this situation. Your daughter or son may want or not want pain medication, tube feeding, life support, and so on, and you can only know this for sure from a living will.

HIPAA Authorization Form

HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, helps keep private health data safe. This means that nobody can be in control of your medical decisions or have access to your medical information if you’re 18 or older.

But as part of an estate plan, a HIPAA authorization form should be considered. It can give certain people access to medical information, basically giving them the legal right to request medical details about the patient. This is something your child can do when they are 18 years old and want someone to know everything about their medical status in case they become incapacitated or they are in a vegetative state.

General Durable Power of Attorney

As soon as your child turns 18, they will be able to do adult things. This involves dealing with legal matters, taking care of finances, filing tax returns, and so on. However, these things cannot be done by your daughter or son anymore if they are a victim in an accident or they suffer from a terrible illness that makes them unable to get out of bed.

So, you may want to take care of these things on your child’s behalf. How do you do it legally? A durable power of attorney is necessary in this case, of course.

The durable power of attorney ensures that you can file tax returns, take care of financial affairs, and more on your child’s behalf. This can come in handy even if they are not dead or incapacitated – for example when they are abroad for studies and need you to handle everything on their behalf.

Of course, the general durable power of attorney should only be used in exceptional situations. Therefore, the student should not use it to escape their adult responsibilities and have their parents do everything for them.

Health Care Proxy / Power of Attorney

How can a student determine who can make medical decisions for them in case they become unconscious? They can do this with a health care proxy/power of attorney. Your son or daughter can name someone as their “medical agent”. This means that this individual will be able to see medical records and make decisions for them in exceptional situations like incapacitation.

The Bottom Line

Students should also have an estate plan put in place just to be sure that their assets are distributed accordingly and that someone can take decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated. For example, in Long Island, the death rate per 100,000 people was 1,056 in 2020 – so, you never know what tragedy could happen. With a Long Island estate planning lawyer, you can begin planning in advance, making sure that the right people can access your assets and your medical records.


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