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How to Protect Your New College Student With an Estate Plan

August 7, 2019 Douglas Davis

It’s that time of the year when parents are running around, helping get their new college student get ready for school.

It’s exciting, sad, thrilling, exhausting and everything in between. You’re probably prouder than words can express, but you’re also a little afraid, too. How can you make sure your kid is going to be safe at school – their new home away from home? New matching sheet sets, bath accessories and school supplies are great, but it probably doesn’t feel like enough. So what else can you do?


This probably isn’t on your college to-do list, but bringing your child to your estate planning attorney can make a world of difference in how prepared you feel and how safe your child is when they leave.


While your child has graduated from high school, has maybe turned 18 and therefore is technically an adult, it doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t need you anymore. A college student may still want her mom and dad by her side if she gets sick. But as an adult, her decisions for medical care are hers alone now. If she were to be unconscious from a serious car accident, a parent couldn’t authorize medical care without first going to court. And it would be up to a judge to determine if her parent would be an appropriate guardian to make medical decisions.


The unfortunately reality is that a significant number of people between 18 and 25 wind up in the nation’s hospitals due to injury or illness, and their parents are often locked out of critical decisions due to the law.


That’s why we recommend that everyone over the age of 18 have a basic estate plan in place that includes a will or trust, a financial power of attorney, and medical directives that would allow someone they trust to act on their behalf if they aren’t able to.


Here are some estate planning items to add to your college to-do list before you drop them off at the dorm:


  • A FERPA Release: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is designed to protect college students’ privacy, but it can leave parents locked out in an emergency. A properly worded release allows school officials to talk with you and release your child’s records to you.
  • A HIPAA Authorization: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was designed to protect a patient’s privacy. Consider having your child sign an authorization so that—just in case—any necessary doctors can talk to you about your child’s condition, care, and treatment.
  • A Durable Financial Power of Attorney: This is a legal document that allows you to take care of your child’s checking or savings accounts, pay bills, etc., if your child is unable to—whether due to illness or even just location (for example, if the school is on the other side of the country).
  • A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare: Like the financial version, this allows you to handle medical decisions for your child if your child is unable to do so.
  • A Will: At first glance, this may seem a little silly for the average broke college kid. In our digital age, there are some hidden complexities. For example, on average, an email account today is tied to 130 or more online accounts, each with their own username and password. Does your child have thoughts about who should manage their social media and email accounts, receive valuable gaming accounts, and close down other apps and accounts? It’s also a great time in your young adult child’s life to instill responsibility by encouraging them to think about planning in the long term.


At Davis Law Group, we’ve been helping families attain peace of mind for years. Reach out to one of our experienced estate planning attorneys today to help protect your new college student and your family.