Parents of New College Students, Did You Know?

In Estate Planning, Incapacity, Life Changes by tarleton

Estate planning is essential for adults of any age, including new college students.  New college students look forward to the growing independence that comes with moving into a new dorm room or apartment, but parents and family are often still supporting the student as he or she explores new opportunities, such as study abroad or travel with a student group.  There are key documents and important information that a parent should have in case an emergency arises.


Legally an Adult.  Did you consider that once your child reaches age 18, you may no longer automatically make important medical or financial decisions on your child’s behalf?  Under Texas law, a person is legally an adult upon reaching age 18, and doctors and hospitals must respect privacy laws restricting information about that person’s medical care.  Likewise, banks and financial institutions must also keep financial information private.


Durable Power of Attorney (or “Financial Power of Attorney”).  A durable power of attorney is a legal document that appoints an agent to handle financial affairs. College students may not have many valuable financial assets, but there are still unanticipated financial and personal problems that could arise.  Consider what would happen if your child was studying or traveling abroad and had difficulty with his or her bank account, tuition financing, scholarships, housing registration, or another unanticipated financial issue.  A durable power of attorney can enable the parent to work through such situations on the child’s behalf.   The power gives the agent (the parent) the authority to do anything that the child could do, such as pay bills, settle debts, sell property, or handle any other financial matter that needs to be done on the child’s behalf.  This would also be particularly important in the event the child became incapacitated, since it helps to avoid the expense of a court-appointed guardian to handle financial matters for the incapacitated child.


Medical Power of Attorney.  This document is just as critical as a financial power of attorney.   If an unlikely accident or illness occurred, this power will authorize the parent to make health care treatment decisions for the student if the student is unable to do so.


HIPAA Release.  While the medical power would allow the parent to make medical decisions, it is also necessary to have a HIPAA Release signed by the student to grant the parent access to medical information that would otherwise remain protected by privacy laws.


Digital Accounts.  In addition, it is important for a parent to know what the student’s assets are and how to access them.  A power of attorney can be drafted to provide authority for the agent to access digital accounts, but that authority will not be as effective if it requires the agent to track down accounts or passwords.


Ideally, these documents will never need to be used during the college years, but it’s best to have them in place in case something does happen.  When an emergency arises, the last thing a parent needs is the added burden of gaining permission to make important decisions.


Have you recently had a child head to college?  Estate planning is probably not on your college student’s mind, but it will provide important peace of mind for you as your child comes home for the holidays and heads back to school.  To learn more about estate planning, please visit our website at or call us at (214) 935-9004.  Although we are located in Dallas, we serve clients all over Texas.