Before your young adult heads to college, it is vital to have the basic estate documents created. These documents will appoint individuals that are allowed to represent as well as receive any personal property and assets. The basic legal documents your young adult will need include the following:
Healthcare Power of Attorney & HIPAA Authorization –
A Healthcare Power of Attorney (HCPOA) is a document that allows an individual to appoint others to make healthcare decisions on their behalf if they are not capable. The HIPAA Authorization allows the individuals listed within the document to have medical information as well as records released to them. It is highly recommended to name the same individuals, in identical order, within both documents. Otherwise, one individual could be appointed to make healthcare decisions for you in the HCPOA, but if not appointed in the HIPAA Authorization, he would not be allowed access to any medical information or records.
Living Will –
The Living Will is a document that states your wishes for end of life care when you are in a permanently unconscious or terminally ill state. It provides authorization to your physician that you do not want any type of life-sustaining measures, i.e. life support.
Financial Power of Attorney –
A Financial Power of Attorney is a document that is only effective when you are living and is terminated at your death. This document allows the individual appointed to act on your behalf for any of your financial affairs, in the event that you are physically unable or mentally incapacitated. The individual appointed would be allowed to handle any bank transactions, pay expenses/bills, file taxes, etc.
Last Will & Testament –
A Will is a document that is created for two main purposes upon an individual passing away. First, it names the executor of the decedent's estate who is the person that holds the responsibility to manage and settle the estate. Secondly, it instructs the executor where the decedent wishes for their personal property and assets to be distributed.
Even though your young adult might not own a substantial amount of personal property or assets, a Will is still needed. Otherwise, the personal property and other assets will have to go through Probate Court to be distributed based upon state law.
Best practice is to never appoint two individuals at the same time within any document. Appoint only one individual at a time and list multiple successors in a consecutive order.
Each of these estate documents are equally important and handle very different aspects of life. As this can be such a busy time of year, it is crucial to take time to sit down with your young adult before they head off to college. Discuss each document to determine who shall be appointed, then have an attorney draft the documents for your young adult to sign.
Parents, as much as you do not want to think of what events could cause a need for these documents, you will feel a sense of serenity once these documents are in place!