Folks often think of estate planning as something to consider in one’s 40s, 50s, 60s, or beyond. However, preparing an estate plan with your lawyer at any age is a good idea – even for your college-bound 18-year-old. Even though your child still feels like a baby to you, once they turn 18, the law sees them as an adult. You may be wondering how to keep your adult children safe and protected, especially while away in college – or why it’s needed. Whether your kid is staying near home, going to another state, or even traveling abroad, here are the best ways to keep your kid legally safe.
When having an estate plan prepared for your 18-year-old, it’s important to take into consideration which documents are most important. Most vitally, a Health Care Proxy and Durable Power of Attorney should be prepared. Once the law sees a child as an adult, you as a guardian lose legal responsibility over them or the ability to even access information about them. In the event of an emergency, the hospitals will not immediately turn to the parents, and getting the court’s approval can be time consuming. A Health Care Proxy is even more important if your child is going to a college known for parties – where underage drinking and hazing is plentiful. Many hospitals will have Health Care Proxies to fill out if they’re needed, however if you or your child would like something more in-depth, a law office is the best place to turn.
Alongside a Health Care Proxy, getting a Durable Power of Attorney in place is crucial. A Health Care Proxy allows a pre-designated party to make emergency health care decisions in the event of incapacitation; similarly, a Durable Power of Attorney allows a named party to make legal decisions. Having a Durable Power of Attorney ready circumvents needing to go through the courts, some of which can be frustratingly slow in granting legal guardianship. This includes the ability to pay debts, to speak openly with health insurance companies or college administration, or to retain legal counsel. As an example, if your child has taken out loans for college, having legal permission to handle them can prevent future repercussions, especially for private loan companies.
These documents are extra important if your child is studying in another state or abroad. Health Care Proxies and Durable Powers of Attorney are intended to be followed in any state. Having to go through Massachusetts courts can be difficult enough, but going through another state’s courts would be even more exhausting. Once your child has these documents in place, you can exhale and relax knowing your child is protected.
Creating an estate plan can be a daunting process. Folks may not see it as a necessity, especially for an 18-year-old college student. However, when your child is just stepping into adulthood, having estate planning documents keeps you prepared. If planning an estate plan sounds like a confusing or tedious process, contact one of our attorneys – we’ll make the process as smooth and reassuring as possible.