Considerations for Children Heading to College or Nearing the Age of 18 July 25, 2017

By Jonathan C. Wolnik

Fall is right around the corner, which means it is time to plan for school.  For some students, this coming semester means starting college which may include leaving home for the first time.  Once a child attains age 18, under law the child is considered an adult with personal privacy rights.  Parents must realize that their control over the child is largely lost and access to private information may be strictly limited.  Such information restrictions complicate matters for parents should an accident or illness involve their child.  However, advanced planning can address these situations before they occur and may mitigate some of the stress associated with unexpected disasters.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

First, children reaching the age of 18 are strongly urged to execute a healthcare power of attorney.  A healthcare power of attorney is a legal document executed by the student that grants an “Agent”, typically a parent or guardian, access to the child’s medical records in the event that the child becomes incapacitated.  This document may also enable the Agent to make medical decisions for the incapacitated party, if necessary.  Without this document, the Agent may need to access the courts to obtain any information related to the child ’s medical state or to make healthcare decisions on behalf of the student.

A healthcare power of attorney is a document that our attorneys can assist your family with.  While it is beneficial for children to execute such a document, it is also appropriate for all family members of adult-age to have this document prepared to address their own medical care.

Living Will

A living will is often coupled with the healthcare power of attorney.  Under Ohio law, the living will controls end-of-life decisions.  This document allows the child to make their wishes known regarding whether they shall be sustained by extraordinary means, such as ventilators and feeding tubes, in the event such care becomes necessary.  The child executing the document may also make their wishes known regarding organ donation and the use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (commonly known as “CPR”).  Essentially, this document offers an incapacitated individual the opportunity to control their care.

A living will becomes effective when the patient is diagnosed to be in a permanently unconscious state or terminally ill.  Working with our attorneys will help ensure the healthcare power of attorney and living will are drafted in a consistent and proper manner so that the individual’s wishes are respected.

Durable (Financial) Power of Attorney

In addition to a healthcare power of attorney, children should consider executing a durable power of attorney in favor of a trusted family member.  Like the healthcare power described above, the durable power of attorney allows the child to appoint an Agent to act on their behalf in legal and financial matters.  Banks, embassies, universities, courts, and other important institutions are accustomed to dealing with these documents, so having them in place makes managing a child’s affairs much easier and more efficient.

Will

Depending on a child’s assets, or potential inheritances, the child may need a will.  Estate planning is not common for younger people, but should be considered.  Wills control the disposition of assets upon one’s death, rather than leaving any remaining assets to be disposed of according to state law.

It is important to note that all of the documents contemplated in this blog are revocable.  Planning now does not mean planning forever.  As time goes by and family dynamics change, these documents can be amended or revoked.

Personal Data

Finally, the child should leave a disaster recovery folder behind.  This folder should contain the documents discussed along with a listing of bank accounts, online accounts, credit cards, and insurance policies (if any).  The folder should include instructions for accessing the necessary accounts, along with login and passwords.  The folder should also include a listing of the contacts the student has worked with, such as attorneys, bankers, or insurance agents.  This will make things easier for the family if it is necessary to act under the powers granted.  The best planning includes making sure the documents are available to those who are authorized to act when needed.

Conclusion

Wills, succession planning, and powers of attorney as discussed in this blog require a conversation with a qualified attorney.  If your family situation entails the planning discussed above, please schedule a consultation with one of our estate planning attorneys.

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