Estate Planning for College-Age Children

Home > Blog > Estate Planning for College-Age Children

My youngest son just went off to college for the first time, so my husband and I are now empty nesters! It’s been more than 20 years since it was just us in the house, so it’s taking some getting used to. As an estate planning attorney, one of the things that I did to get my son ready for college was to help him create his own estate plan.

Creating an estate plan is probably not the first thing on either the parent or the student’s minds. You might even be thinking “my kid doesn’t own anything, why would they need an estate plan?” Estate planning is about so much more than just stuff, it is also about answering the question “Who takes care of me if I can’t speak for myself?”

So let’s dive right in to what you (and your college student) need to know about their estate plan as they embark on their college journey. Here are the essentials:

Advance Health Care Directive

In California, an Advance Health Care Directive designates someone to make medical decisions on their behalf if your young adult is unable to do so. This document also gives them the opportunity to outline their preferences for medical treatment, giving you and them peace of mind that their wishes will be respected. An important part of the Advance Health Care Directive is the HIPPA Disclosure Authorization. Without this, your child’s health care professionals can’t talk to you.

Durable Power of Attorney

This document allows your child to appoint someone to manage their financial affairs if they become incapacitated. It ensures bills are paid, and financial matters are handled, even if they can’t do it themselves.

Digital Estate Plan

In this digital age, it’s essential to plan for the online world too. Your child should consider creating a list of digital accounts, passwords, and instructions for their management in case they’re unable to access them.

FERPA Authorization

Under the Family Educational Righs and Privacy Act (FERPA) your child’s school is permitted to disclose information from their education records to parents who claim them as a dependent for federal tax purposes. It’s important to have a Consent Form so that you can discuss your child’s education with the school. Otherwise, as they are adults, they school can’t talk to you.

Last Will and Testament & Beneficiary Updates

This one may not be necessary. If your child doesn’t yet have assets (for example, I own my son’s car jointly with him, and he has more debt than money in the bank thanks to his student loans) they may not need a will at this point, but it’s something to think about, especially if they want the assets they do have to go to someone other than their parents.

You may have taken out a life insurance policy when they were very young. This is a good time to talk to them about that. If they work, they may have started investing in a retirement account. Making sure they understand beneficiaries is important.

Regular Updates

Just like your own estate plan, your child’s plan should be reviewed and updated periodically. Major life events like marriage, the birth of children, or significant asset acquisitions should trigger a review.

Professional Advice

Encourage your child to consult with an estate planning attorney. They can provide guidance and ensure that all necessary legal documents are in order. Plus it’s been my experience with helping young adults with their estate plan that they take these decisions very seriously. (Young adults often ask more questions than their parents do!) It’s a great idea for our children to get used to taking their future seriously, and this is an easy way to get comfortable talking with attorneys.

Open Communication

Discussing these matters openly with your child is crucial. Make sure they understand the importance of an estate plan and how it can protect their interests and their loved ones.

In conclusion, estate planning isn’t just for older generations. College-age children can benefit from having a plan in place to protect their assets, wishes, and loved ones. It’s a responsible step towards securing their financial future and ensuring their intentions are clear. So, set sail on this important journey with your child and help them chart a course towards a well-prepared estate plan.

If you have questions about creating an estate plan for your college-age student (or even high school senior if they have turned 18), please contact Thatcher | Law to learn more. Click on the link below to schedule a call.