School is about to start again, and many people have children who will be starting college as freshmen this fall. For most of these children, this will be the first time that they have moved away from home, many a great distance from their parents. In preparation for the move to school, most parents and their children make a comprehensive list of things to do or purchase before the upcoming freshman moves away.
That list of things to complete should include putting some simple estate planning documents in place for your child. In Alabama, once your child is nineteen (eighteen in most other states), he or she is considered an adult, and thus parents are no longer entitled to make medical or financial decisions on the child’s behalf.
In light of this, your child should execute both a Durable Power of Attorney and an Advance Health Care Directive. The Durable Power of Attorney comes in very handy when an issue arises and a parent needs to obtain financial or other protected information on a child’s behalf while he or she is away. For example, a parent might need to speak with an insurance company regarding a claim, or replace a lost debit card. If you are appointed as agent in a Durable Power of Attorney, you can speak directly with that insurance company or bank on your child’s behalf, thereby alleviating any potential delays.
The Advance Health Care Directive allows you to be appointed as your child’s health care proxy. In the event your child is injured while away at college and is unable to make decisions, you would be designated as someone who is able to make health care decisions for your child. We would recommend sending a copy of this directive to your child’s physician to keep in their file. In addition, we recommend having your child execute a HIPAA release so that you might be able to receive any necessary medical records on your child’s behalf.
You may also consider having your child execute a simple Will. Having that Will in place would help ensure that in the event something unexpected were to happen, you would be able to serve as the Personal Representative (executor) without having to post a bond or file an inventory with the Probate Court.
Doing just these few things should give you some peace of mind and help protect your child in the event something unexpected was to happen.