By: Shari B. Cohen, Esq. Special to the Boca and Delray newspapers
It is all over Facebook…everyone full of smiles. With college acceptances now rolling in for high school seniors, it is an exciting time for both the college-bound and their parents.
While a child is looking forward to attending college in the fall and is concentrating on issues like dorm room décor and which fraternity or sorority to join, many parents are anxious, lamenting about losing control of and/or protecting their child who is now or will soon become independent as an adult at the age of 18.
While most parents have not even considered estate planning for their 18-year-old because they think that is solely for married, elderly or wealthy people, here are some reasons why parents might want to consider estate planning for their college-bound son or daughter.
Estate Planning is not just a will. Estate planning consists of many types of legal documents, one of which is a Last Will and Testament. While 18-year-olds may establish a will, it is important to also consider establishing a Durable Power of Attorney, a Health Care Surrogate and a Living Will, before heading off to college.
- A Will outlines directives for managing, assigning and/or selling personal tangible property. These can include a car, jewelry, savings accounts, computers, cell phones, digital assets (such as Facebook accounts) and even businesses that students could have established while in high school.
- A Durable Power of Attorney can enable parents to access financial and educational information regarding their adult child. It can also allow parents to obtain information about digital assets, student loans and bank accounts. Most colleges provide a form for incoming students to sign allowing parents to receive grades, but it is up to the student to make that decision. If a Power of Attorney is in place, the parent would be able to obtain the information regardless of whether or not the student signed the form.
- A Health Care Surrogate can enable parents to make medical decisions for their adult child as well as to access medical records. If an 18-year-old college student gets into an accident, is badly injured and is admitted to the hospital, a parent cannot have access to his or her medical records or make any medical decisions for him or her. Thus, a Health Care Surrogate, done in advance of any potential health issue, is one of the most important documents for a college student to execute; it provides “peace of mind” for both the parent and child.
- A Living Will can allow someone to die with dignity. While this is can be uncomfortable topic, it is a critical one to discuss. If a student accidentally passes away, from a car accident, an overdose or acute alcohol poisoning, he or she may not want to be kept on life support if they are in a persistent vegetative state. College-age students are adults, and thus they have the responsibility of handling their own affairs.
For peace of mind, parents should consider adding estate planning to a student’s “countdown to college” prep lists before they step foot on campus. At minimum, a Power of Attorney, Health Care Surrogate and Living Will would offer the access and protection needed in times of crisis.
Shari B. Cohen, Esq. is an attorney at The Law Offices of Robin Bresky that focuses on Estate Planning, Probate, Estate and Trust Administration, Appeals, Litigation Support and Trial Preparation. A member of the Florida Bar since 1989, Cohen earned her Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Miami School of Law. The Law Offices of Robin Bresky supports clients throughout their life cycles (from college graduation; business ownerships; marriage; parenthood, some living with special needs children to asset protection in divorce; spouse loss; diminished mental capacity, death). Call 561-994-6273 or visit www.breskylegal.com to learn more.