College Students—you Need an Estate Plan, Too!

College students—you need an estate plan, too!

We know that making a plan for your estate is the last thing on our mind as you complete college applications, housing requests, and about a million other things before you walk across the stage with your high school peers.

Hear us out, though: addressing the four areas below can help you avoid a potentially disastrous situation if something were to happen to you during your college experience. While you’ll likely enter college as a legal adult (18 in New York), your loved ones will be a huge part of ensuring your wellbeing in this next stage of your life.

  1. Health Care Proxy. New York has a legal document available to all competent adults. This form designates a health care agent who can make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated. These decisions empower your agent to make decisions on any treatment, service, or procedure that is intended to diagnose or treat any mental or physical conditions you have.

Importantly, your health care agent is able to refuse life-sustaining treatments on your behalf. These are extremely sensitive situations but nonetheless important for you to address. You can also make designations for things like organ donation and even name an alternate agent on your health care proxy document.

  1. HIPAA Release. Many people are familiar with the sensitivity around personally identifiable medical information, but it’s certainly an abrupt change when it comes to HIPAA information and college students. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) contains a key privacy provision that limits who can see the medical information of those aged 18 or older.

Without signing a HIPAA release form that names your parents, guardians, or loved ones as HIPAA recipients, there might be a needlessly complex legal process to determine who can access your medical records. While college is supposed to be an enriching time of your life, there are plenty of opportunities for “fun” to get out of control. Hopefully, you are able to have a fulfilling college experience without the need for HIPAA information to be relayed to a family member. However, it is good to have this arranged before you need it.

  1. Durable Power of Attorney. It’s likely that, if you have not already started one, you’ll create a checking account before heading off to college. Having a savings account and manageable line of credit are also prudent. After you turn 18, your parents won’t be able to move money into these accounts or, generally, much of anything unless you sign a power of attorney that grants them access. If you’re lucky enough to have your parents help you with your taxes, you’ll also need a general power of attorney to make that happen. Plus, you’ll have someone to pay certain bills if you decide to study abroad for a semester. A general power of attorney that’s durable empowers your agent to act on your behalf even when you’re incapacitated.
  1. FERPA Waiver. The Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects the release of certain educational records like your GPA,  transcript, disciplinary records, and medical information. Why is medical information included? Many higher-educational institutions view those records as part of your educational records. Once you turn 18, your parents or guardians may not be able to send your educational records and personally identifiable information to health providers or even access the information. A FERPA waiver takes care of this issue by laying out what your school may allow your parents to access.

You’re No Longer a Child!

Some schools give future students reminders about completing these important forms while others completely leave it up to students. Regardless, an exciting and terrifying truth hits all college students before they move into their dorms: They are adults, and their parents can no longer act on their behalf when it comes to important matters.

Just because you’re young and invincible doesn’t mean you don’t have some important tasks to take care of. The Browne Firm is well-equipped to handle estate planning for those at any stage of their lives. We hope we get the chance to provide you with smart, precise legal services before you head off to the next great adventure of your life. Give our team a call at 914-530-3070 to set something up.

Author Bio

Danielle Browne is the founder and managing attorney of The Browne Firm, a New York-based estate planning and business law firm. Danielle leverages her background, serving as general counsel for a Fortune 500 company and working with startups to represent clients in entity formation, intellectual property protection, contract drafting, estate planning, and more.

With more than ten years of experience as an attorney and business executive, she has represented clients ranging from entrepreneurs and small businesses to artists and Fortune 500 companies. Danielle received her Juris Doctor cum laude from the University of Miami School of Law and is licensed to practice in New York. She has received numerous honors for her work, including being named a 2015 Future Leader by the WNBA President while serving as general counsel for the Atlanta Dream.

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