To all the high school graduates and their families, we at E-Law wish you a bright and successful future! As the graduates move onto their next life journey, it’s important to speak with a Las Cruces estate planning attorney about protecting your child before they become an independent adult. Many things change from a legal standpoint once students become legal adults, according to Saving for College in their article, Legal Documents for Students Who Are Headed to College.
If your student is going to an out-of-state college or moving to another state, it’s especially critical to take the recommended steps listed below so that you can still be involved in your children’s lives when you are needed.
Health care proxy/medical power of attorney. Even if you are the person paying for health insurance, you are not legally permitted to make decisions on their behalf. Have your child sign a proxy/POA form designating who has the primary authority to make health decisions, if he or she is unable to do so. This is especially important when parents are divorced: both parents need to have the proper forms. Your estate planning attorney will be able to prepare these for you.
Durable power of attorney (POA). If your child has signed a durable POA, you will be able to handle their financial matters, especially if your child becomes incapacitated.
HIPAA authorization. Medical providers may not disclose a patient’s medical status, unless they have legal permission. Your child should sign a HIPAA authorization with each of their providers, giving the parent access to all their information. This is especially necessary for a child with health or mental issues.
FERPA waivers. This one takes many parents by surprise. Even if you are the one paying for tuition and all college expenses, the college will not provide academic records, including grades and tuition bills, due to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act. Each school will have their own version of the FERPA Waiver. Contact the college, most likely the financial aid office, and find out exactly what forms they need to be sure you have access to all of your children’s information, including any health and mental health treatment.
Wills and trusts. If a child has assets and no descendants, they need a will or revocable trust to protect the parent’s taxable estate and allow someone to manage these assets, if they die prematurely.
Medical records and appointments. Make sure the child has access to their medical records, including medications, allergies, immunizations, etc. Schedule medical and dental appointments for your new graduate now to obtain prescription refills, ensure vaccinations are up to date, and address maintenance of any chronic health issues your child might need to manage on their own.
Insurance. See if the family’s medical, homeowner’s and auto insurance coverage extend to a child living away at school and in another state. If the child is renting a house or apartment, make sure they have renter’s insurance. Also, while the Affordable Care Act (ACA) enables dependent children to remain on their parents’ health insurance until age 26, it’s best to confirm that their coverage will continue once they turn 18, as well as how their coverage will work if they move out of state. If your child plans to study or travel internationally, you should also check to see if medical evacuation insurance will be necessary.
Proof of identity. Make sure the child has access to their passport, birth certificate or Social Security card so they can get an internship or a job.
Bank accounts and credit cards. If the family’s regular bank does not have a branch where the child is attending school, the parents should consider opening a basic checking account at a local branch. Both parents and child should be on the account.
Registration. It’s time to register to vote and sons will need to register with Selective Service.
Before your child leaves town for college, work, or the next chapter in their life, meet with Las Cruces Estate Planning Attorney Michele Ungvarsky who can advise you and your graduate on the proper legal documents needed to protect your family. Request a consultation with her office today!