Young Adult Estate Plans: to College and Beyond from Austin Estate Planning Attorney Elizabeth Ziegler

Young Adult Estate Plan

Summer is practically here for Americans, and with the arrival of early May, the start of graduation season is here as well! High school graduates can look forward to a few months of planning to head off into the adventure called college. But, between dreams of the future and stocking up on all those dorm room necessities, families might want to consider a young adult estate plan for their brand new undergraduates as well.

Freshly Minted Young Adults

To their parents, kids will always be their kids, no matter how old. However, good old Uncle Sam views them differently. We all know the national age of majority is eighteen years old. Most students headed off to college are either eighteen or reach eighteen sometime during that first year of school. Meaning, when that day comes, the government views the new adults as just that, adults. While kids are underage, their parents are the decision makers and emergency contacts. But on their eighteenth birthday, this changes, and information may not automatically be shared with parents. And therefore, it’s advisable for eighteen year old’s to have their own young adult estate plan.

What Does a Young Adult Estate Plan Include?

All young adults should have a basic estate plan in place, even if they have little or no money or property. If your legal adult child does not have an estate plan, now is a good time to put together the following documents before they head off to college:

  • Medical power of attorney: A power of attorney grants another person the legal authority to act on the signer’s behalf. In the case of a medical power of attorney, the agent (typically the parent) is allowed to make medical decisions on behalf of the principal (the young adult). The principal can name anyone they want to make medical decisions for them, and can revoke this form at any time.
  • Advance directive or Living will: Often the hardest thing we expect college students to experience in school are headaches from all the reading. But there’s no way to predict the worst won’t happen. Sadly it’s possible a college student may need end-of-life care (including tube feeding, mechanical ventilation, resuscitation, and when to be allowed to pass away peacefully).  A living will is a legal document that spells out a patient’s preferences with respect to end-of-life decisions in circumstances. This document usually goes into effect when the patient is unable to make decisions (unconscious) or communicate their preferences.
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) authorization form: HIPAA created national standards for disclosing patient health information. Under the HIPAA privacy rule, parents have access to the medical records of their minor children. But, as established, after the child turns eighteen, parents no longer have automatic access. By signing a HIPAA authorization form, a person older than eighteen can give their parents (or anyone else) legal permission to access their protected healthcare information. This allows authorized individuals to communicate with a healthcare provider about the patient’s care, condition, and treatment, but not make medical decisions.
  • Financial power of attorney: As with a medical power of attorney, a financial power of attorney gives an agent (again typically a parent) the legal authority to act on the principal’s (the young adult’s) financial behalf. A financial power of attorney may be limited to tasks such as cashing checks, paying bills, and making bank deposits. Although more financial transactions are done online these days, if the young adult does not have access to the internet or a device, they may need somebody else to temporarily handle their finances.

Food for Thought

Sending their kids off to college can be hard for parents, while it’s definitely an adventure for the new freshmen. Whether your young adult is just about to head off to college, is about to graduate from college, or is starting their careers, having a plan in place can provide peace of mind to both parents and their adult kids. We welcome the opportunity to work with you to help protect you and your family. Call us to schedule your appointment, or visit our website to learn more about our firm and process. If you would like to learn more about this strategy for yourself and your loved ones, we are ready to assist you. Nielsen Law PLLC provides family-focused estate planning to individuals and families in Austin, Round Rock, Cedar Park, and the Central Texas area.  For more information and to learn about our firm, please contact us.