Do College Kids Need an Estate Plan?

Gold Leaf Estate Planning, LLC

POSTED ON: May 3, 2018
College kids need estate plan

With the end of the school year just around the corner for high-school seniors in Burnsville, Eagan, Apple Valley, Prior Lake and Savage, many parents of graduating seniors will be thinking about preparing their children for their first year of college. Parents of some students will be faced with the reality of their children moving across the country to the college of their choice, while other parents may still have their children at home attending school nearby or thinking about the next steps in their lives. Regardless of whether your children move away or stay in “the nest”, there is one thing all of these graduating seniors have in common.

The moment your children turn 18, they should have three legal documents: A Health Care Directive, Power of Attorney, and HIPAA Waiver. These three documents are critical to ensure that your children are protected if they are in an accident and left incapacitated for any period of time.

Health Care Decisions for Your College-Aged Children

If your child is in an accident and is left incapacitated, most parents assume that they will still be able to make health care decisions for their child and access their medical records. This, unfortunately, is not true. Once they turn 18, your children have reached the age of majority and are no longer considered minors. As such, the law protects their right to make decisions for themselves. If left incapacitated, your college-aged child should have a Health Care Directive that appoints a family member (typically a parent) as the Health Care Agent to make decisions about his or her care. You will want to have a couple of back-up Health Care Agents just in case something happens to the first Agent in line.

If your children name a Health Care Agent, it is important that their Agent have access to their medical records so that the Agent can make informed decisions. As such, it is also important that your college-aged children have a HIPAA Waiver. This document allows your children to name individuals (again, typically family members) who will have access to their medical records.

Legal and Financial Decisions for Your College-Aged Children

Last, but not least, your children need a Power of Attorney before they head off to college in the fall. If your child needs or wants you to be able to handle financial transactions for them, a Power of Attorney is a must. Having access to your children’s financial accounts, digital accounts, and legal documents is important for most parents when they are still footing the bill financially for their children’s education. It can be a tough realization for some parents when they try and access their children’s records and accounts, but are denied access, even though they are still paying all of the bills.

What happens without a Health Care Directive, Power of Attorney, or HIPAA Waiver?

What happens if you don’t have these documents in place? If your children don’t have a Health Care Directive, Power of Attorney or HIPAA Waiver in place and something happens to them that leaves them incapacitated, you may be faced with having to file a Petition for Guardianship and/or Conservatorship with a Court to be appointed as Guardian or Conservator over your child. A Guardian may make decisions related to health care for a Ward (the incapacitated individual) and a Conservator may make decisions relating to legal and financial affairs. These proceedings are costly, time consuming, and they are also public. Between court costs and attorney fees, families can expend thousands of dollars on these types of proceedings. All of those costs can be avoided by having some basic incapacity planning in place for your children. Contact our office today if you would like to speak with us about setting up an incapacity plan for your children.

Zach Wiegand is a Burnsville, Minnesota estate planning attorney and the owner of Gold Leaf Estate Planning, LLC. Gold Leaf Estate Planning is an estate planning law firm that handles probate and trust administration in Minnesota. We serve the Twin Cities metropolitan area with a focus on estate planning for clients in Burnsville, Eagan, Savage, Prior Lake, Lakeville, Apple Valley, Eden Prairie and the South Metro. The firm also handles probate in Dakota County, Washington County, Scott County, Hennepin County, and Ramsey County. Zach was named a Minnesota Super Lawyer – Rising Star for both 2017 & 2018 and he is a member of WealthCounsel – a national organization of estate planning attorneys dedicated to practice excellence. You can contact Zach via e-mail at or by calling (952) 658-6503. Gold Leaf Estate Planning is located in Burnsville at 3000 County Road 42 W., Suite 310, Burnsville, MN 55337.