Does My College-Bound Child Need an Estate Plan?
For many Florida parents, the relief of watching their children graduate from high school will quickly turn to apprehension as they go off to college this fall. In addition to starting at a new school, these college-bound kids are now (mostly) legal adults. What does this mean in terms of estate planning? Does your child need a will or power of attorney just because they are now 18 and moving out of the house?
Powers of Attorney & Advance Directives
Let’s start with the basics. At a minimum, every adult Florida resident should have two documents: a durable power of attorney and advance directives for healthcare. These documents serve a common purpose–to appoint agents to act on your behalf should you become incapacitated and unable to express your wishes.
At first glance, you might think this is overkill. After all, if your child is in trouble, surely the law allows you to take action on their behalf. While this is generally true with respect to minors, that is not the case once your child turns 18. As an adult, your child has the same legal rights and responsibilities as any other Florida citizen, including the power to decide for themselves who can serve as their agents.
A durable power of attorney names an agent to make decisions regarding your child’s money and property. For example, an agent can make binding legal contracts on your child’s behalf. The agent can also do things like open or close a bank account for your child.
Along similar lines, advance directives name someone to make medical decisions for your child. This agent is known as a “health care surrogate.” Well-drafted advance directives should also express your child’s wishes regarding the medical care they wish to receive if they become incapacitated. For instance, let’s say your child is seriously injured in an auto accident and left in a coma. His or her advance directives could let doctors know if they wish to receive “extraordinary measures” to prolong their life.
Advance directives should also include what is known as a HIPAA release. HIPAA is a federal law that governs the privacy of medical information. Doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers–such as campus clinics–are strictly forbidden from releasing a patient’s healthcare information under HIPAA unless the patient signs a release or waiver. This means that a doctor may not be allowed to give you information about your adult child’s condition or treatment absent such a release.
Get Advice from a Lee County, Florida Estate Planning Lawyer
There are other estate planning issues your child may wish to explore before heading off to freshman orientation, such as whether to make a will. An experienced Fort Myers estate planning attorney can provide valuable guidance to you and your child. Contact the Kuhn Law Firm, P.A., at 239-333-4529 today to schedule a free confidential consultation with a member of our estate planning legal team.