As you pack up extra-long twin sheets and the emergency credit card for your college-bound child, don’t forget to pack her legal documents.
Though your high school graduate doesn’t seem too independent while you are still paying tuition and including him or her on your health insurance plan, when your child turns eighteen, he or she becomes an adult.
What does this mean for you as parents? It means that although your parent-child relationship hasn’t changed, your legal relationship has – parents cannot act on behalf of their adult children on financial or medical issues because of federal privacy laws.
To address this, add an Advance Directive and a Durable Power of Attorney to your school supply list.
Imagine your child gets in a car accident while at college and is unable to make medical decisions because she is unconscious. You won’t want to waste time arguing with healthcare professionals over access to your child’s medical information in order to make important and timely medical decisions. If your child signed an Advance Directive appointing you as his or healthcare representative, you will immediately speak with the medical providers on their behalf.
The Oregon Advance Directive allows your child to appoint another person (usually one or both parents) to make healthcare decisions if your child is not able to do so. In addition, your child can give instructions to doctors regarding his or her wishes regarding medical treatment under various scenarios.
Make sure you send the Advance Directive with your child and keep copies for yourself, including an electronic copy which can be e mailed in an emergency to the healthcare providers.
The power of attorney allows your child to appoint an agent who can act on his or her behalf in all financial, tax, legal, investment, insurance and similar matters if your child becomes incapacitated and is no longer able to make decisions for him- or herself or even when they are studying abroad for a time and cannot sign tax returns or other documents in the normal course of business. It can be designed as springing, which empowers the agent only when your child is incapacitated, or immediately effective, which allows the agent to act on behalf of your child immediately.
Again, make sure you send the Power of Attorney with your child and keep copies for yourself, including an electronic copy which can be e mailed immediately when needed.
If your children have significant assets in their names already, and your own estate is already taxable, then you might consider helping your children connect with an estate planning attorney to write up a simple will or trust that will direct assets away to siblings or beneficiaries other than you. Absent a will or trust, if tragedy strikes and your children predecease you, their assets will go to you under state law.
Sending your child off to college gives most parents a lot to worry about. By getting these basic estate planning documents in place, you will be able to cross a few things on your worry list.