Your estate planning should include designating someone who can make healthcare-related decisions on their behalf, if they’re unable. This can be a helpful—and potentially necessary—first step in estate planning that benefits both the student and her family.

Forbes’ recent article, “3 Estate Planning Documents Every College Student Needs,” explains that because most college students are at least 18 years old—technically adults—they’re responsible for all decisions regarding their health. In addition, due to the Privacy Rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), parents have no legal right to their adult children’s medical records or other healthcare-related information.

This obstacle makes it hard—if not impossible—for parents to help in the event that their college-aged child needs medical help, especially from a distance. HIPAA also applies, even when the student is still on her parents’ medical insurance.

Parents should have certain documents in place before the worst happens, to avoid many of these challenges. The following legal documents make it much simpler for parents to assist their college-aged children, in the event of a medical emergency:

  • HIPAA authorization: This lets an individual’s health information to be used by or disclosed to a third party.
  • Medical/healthcare power of attorney: This lets a person name another person to be their agent, if they’re no longer able to make decisions on their own healthcare.
  • Durable power of attorney: This can be used to give another individual the authority to make healthcare decisions, make financial transactions, or sign legal documents on a person’s behalf, if they become mentally incapacitated or otherwise unable to perform these activities for themselves.

We do a “College Student Protection Plan” for our clients.  In addition to these documents, we recommend the following:

  • Last Will & Testament: Even though most college students don’t think they have an estate, they do.  And the one uncertainty we all have is how much we’ll be worth when we die.  Unfortunately, there are many wrongful death cases where the person is worth far more in death than they were in life.
  • Declaration of Guardian in Case of Future Incapacitation:  This form allows the student to name his or her guardian in the event that something unexpected happens in the future that causes them to become totally incapacitated.  It also allows the student to name who he or she doesn’t want as their guardian.
  • Advanced Medical Directive (also called Living Will or Directive to Physicians): This documents allows the student to say whether he or she wants to be kept alive on life support in the event that a terminal or irreversible condition has occurred and all medical means have been exhausted.

These documents can vary by state, so it’s prudent to complete the forms relevant to the state where the student is listed as a permanent resident (usually the parents home while they’re away at college). Some schools have their own forms, so check with the school.

Consult your estate planning attorney about these estate planning documents.

Reference: Forbes (November 4, 2019) “3 Estate Planning Documents Every College Student Needs”