What Does Back to School Have to do with Estate Planning?

As summer comes to an end and kids and parents both start getting ready for back-to-school week, estate planning may be the last thing on anybody’s mind; but the beginning of a new school year can actually be the perfect time to give your estate planner a call. Whether your baby is heading off to preschool or college, our office can help you plan for the future and ensure he or she is protected as the school year unwinds.

Any parent of a grade-, middle-, or high-school student knows that the first thing sent home during back-to-school week is the emergency contact forms. These are the forms on which you list who the school should call in case of an emergency when parents can’t be reached, and who might be authorized to make medical decisions for your child if the parents are unavailable. The names you put on these forms can be a perfect starting point for considering who you (and your children) love and trust enough to serve as guardians of your minor children should anything happen to you.

Parents of college-age students (currently or soon to be 18) have a whole different set of legal issues to consider. Although you may still think of your 18 year as your baby, he or she is looked upon as an adult under the law. This means that hospitals and medical personnel are no longer required to ask the parent’s permission before performing medical procedures. In fact, once your child is 18 health care providers are no longer required to share information with the parents at all.

Most college students (and parents) are unaware of this side-effect of turning 18, and parents and children alike can run into frustrating roadblocks should an accident occur. You can avoid these roadblocks by simply having your young adult execute two documents before heading off to school: a healthcare directive nominating you as his or her healthcare agent, and a HIPPA Authorization Form listing you as one of the people who have permission to receive information about his or her medical records and status.

Back-to-school is an exciting time for both parents and children. Taking care of legal and estate-planning business at this time can lift a heavy burden of stress from both parents and children, leaving you all free to enjoy the new year together.

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