Estate Planning for College Students

by Rania Combs on October 2, 2013

FBA couple of years ago, I wrote blog post titled “Three Estate Planning Documents Every College Student Needs.”

The post was prompted by a Facebook page I came across, which was started by an irate mother after a nurse refused to provide her with information about her daughter who was injured in a car accident while at college five hours away.

I explained that despite the fact that your child may be relying on you for the majority of his or her support, privacy laws prohibit financial institutions and medical providers from disclosing private information concerning your child to you without his or her authorization.

Why? Because in the eyes of the law, your 18-year old child is legally an adult and entitled to the same privacy protections you are. Consequently, if your child hasn’t given you legal authority by virtue of a Durable Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, or HIPAA authorization, you may not be able to step in when your child needs you most.

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Why Your College-Age Children Need an Estate Plan,” an attorney shared a couple of other stories about clients who were unable to secure information about the medical condition of their college-age students.

In one situation, the clients’ college-age sons were involved in a car accident that rendered them unconscious. It was not until their sons they regained consciousness a few days later and gave doctors permission to speak with their parents that the parents were able to secure any information about their condition.

In another situation, the clients’ daughter remained in a coma for weeks, and her parents had to sue for guardianship of their own daughter before they could speak with doctors about her condition.

College students can authorize you to step in on their behalf by executing a Durable Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, and HIPAA authorization.  These three documents are easy to prepare and are relatively inexpensive.

If you have a college-aged student, it’s important that you discuss the importance of these documents with him or her.

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