Advice & Features Articles

Navigating the (Legal) Issues of Going Off to College

By Colin Smith / Contributor 

What do we need to have on hand to act on our adult child’s behalf?  (i.e. emergency at college or while traveling in the summer)

Once a child becomes 18 years of age, he or she is legally an adult.  Parents can no longer make health care or financial decisions for the child. (It’s hard to get around to calling them adults, isn’t it?) Therefore, the student needs a simple estate plan so that the parents can act on their behalf.  A simple will and a guardianship in the event of incapacity are documents we hope are never used.  However, other documents, such as a durable power of attorney (for financial decisions), medical power of attorney (for medical decisions), and a HIPAA release (for health care records) may be quite necessary in the event of an emergency.

What do we need to do before our kids leave for college?

If a student is 18, have the student sign a simple estate plan.  Parents should have copies of these documents, and the attorney should ensure that these documents are effective in the state where the student will attend college.  If a college student is 17 years old, the parents are still the legal guardians, and the student should sign a simple estate plan after his or her 18th birthday.

Parents should also keep copies of financial aid information, any leases that the student has, contact information for any university’s clinic or health center, and if the student has a roommate, contact information for the roommate and his or her parents.  It would also help if any of the student’s financial accounts are joint with the parents.

Editor’s Note:  Reach Colin Smith at colin@colinsmithlaw.com or call 972.773.9095.  www.ColinSmithLaw.com

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