July 03, 2023

Estate Planning for College-Bound Students

Over a decade ago, our firm heard a story about a bad car accident involving a young Floridian in his freshman year at Penn State University in College Station, Pennsylvania. The Campus Police Department notified the parents of the incident but did not divulge further details. A call to the student’s roommate yielded some information, but the hospital their son was transferred to remained unknown. Adding even more stress to the situation, Penn State University is a 3.5 hour drive from both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and is still a 1.5 hour drive if you find a flight from South Florida to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania airport. After 90 minutes of frantic telephone calls, the couple managed to find the hospital that admitted their son. However, the hospital would only confirm their son was admitted. As their son was 19 years old at the time, medical privacy rules forbade the hospital staff from sharing any additional information over the telephone despite being the young man’s parents.

What could have helped the parents in the above situation? Even with modern technology, having just location services enabled for a college-aged child is not enough to prepare nor give parents a sense of calm or control in an event like the one described above. In response to this story, Revis, Hervas & Goldberg P.A. prepared a college kids special to provide parents the legal means to protect or assist their adult children in the event of an emergency while they attend college.

Our college kids special consists of three key documents: a Durable Power of Attorney; a Health Care Surrogate; and a HIPAA Release form. A Durable Power of Attorney authorizes a person or persons to make financial decisions on behalf of the young adult. A Health Care Surrogate authorizes a person or persons to make health care decisions for the young adult if they are unable to do so. The HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Release form allows the named person or persons to access health care records of the young adult. HIPPA was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996 to establish a national standard to prevent sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without patient consent or knowledge, and this law penalizes healthcare facilities that violate these patient protections. Without an executed release form to provide to the medical staff, it can make a potential health crisis exponentially tough to navigate. For all three documents, the young adult is considered the client, so the package only consists of the documents they are willing to sign. The young adult – not the parents, is the one to decide whom to name for the fiduciary positions in all of these documents. An alternate or backup fiduciary should be named in each document, although with a HIPAA Release Form any person listed can immediately act.

It is pertinent to note that if your college-aged child attends school abroad for a semester, or the entirety of their academic career, your United States situs documents may not work. Preparing for such an adventure should include obtaining the appropriate documents to use in such a country in the event of an emergency. Copies of the documents should be in the possession of the young adult and the parents, and the location of the original documents should be known by all parties. A certified translation of the documents should also be obtained if the documents are in a foreign language.

To begin preparing our college kids special, we require the legal name and address for the young adult. Next, we need the legal names, addresses and relationships to the young adult for the fiduciary appointments. Prior to signing, the young adult must be 18 years old. The documents must be signed in front of witnesses and a notary, but the documents can be signed out of state, as long as they are witnessed and notarized. Changes to the documents can be made at any time.

If you have an adult child on their way to college, and if you or they have any questions, feel free to call us and speak with any of the attorneys in our office – we will be happy to provide more information.

Contact Revis, Hervas & Goldberg P.A.

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