Is Your Baby Truly Ready?

It’s a new month, so its time for a new theme! This month, we are shifting our focus from Elder Law, to focus on our young adults and college babies! It’s already July, which means it’s almost time for back to school. Some are flying the nest for the first time, some are going hours away from home, some are staying close to home and attending local schools, or entering the work force. Typically, when we talk about back to school, we’re talking about buying school supplies, clothes, electronics, and dorm room essentials.  While those things are all necessary and important, young adults need a few additional items to be truly prepared for this new journey.

Believe it or not, there are some estate planning documents that are very important for the young adults and college babies in your life to have. You’re probably thinking, “but an 18 yrs. old child doesn’t even have an estate!” I agree, the average 18 yrs. old likely has no assets or children. He or she may not need a Will or a Trust. He or she may not have anything to pass down at this point in time. However, when your child or loved one  is not near you, when he or she is transitioning into different phases of life that will without a doubt be outside of your immediate control, when there’s some distance between you, you want to plan for the unexpected. It is a common misconception that young adults do not need estate planning documents unless they are already disabled, have dependents, or assets. However, once a child reaches the age of 18, a third party, including a parent cannot act on his behalf without proper authorization.

You think paying for his or her college tuition means you can automatically access records and make education related decisions? Wrong! It doesn’t matter If he or she is your dependent, is unmarried, has no children and doesn’t know how to do laundry. Without his or her consent, you can write a tuition check, but you’re NOT entitled to educational records. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Regulations (FERPA) 34 CFR Part 99 is a federal law designed to protect the privacy of students’ education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds from the U.S. Department of Education which includes colleges and universities. Under FERPA, parents or eligible students are entitled to inspect and review education records maintained by schools. This Federal law gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s records while they are minors, but these rights transfer to the student he reaches the age of 18.

You think paying for his bills and health insurance means you can automatically access records and make financial and medical decisions? Wrong again! Health and financial powers of attorney allow a third-party or parent to manage health, financial and related affairs. Without such documents, you need consent. At minimum, your child or loved one should have a Power of Attorney and Advance Medical Directives in place. God forbid, if your child becomes incapacitated and unable to consent to you managing or directing others to manage his or her affairs, having the right documents will make it easier for you to take care of things without the costly and often time-consuming guardianship process.

As it relates to legal and healthcare decisions, it’s always better to be proactive than reactive. Follow us on Social Media this month to learn more about what you can do to protect the young adults in your life.

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