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Estate planning for college students includes powers of attorney

Going off to college is a rite of passage, both for children and their parents. The sense of independence and self-reliance is an important step toward maturity, and parents often find their own freedom at the same time. However, what many Oklahoma parents overlook is that their child's independence from them extends beyond deciding what courses they will study or what time they will go to bed. Once children reach the age of majority, certain elements of estate planning could save their lives.

While on spring break in Mexico, one 19-year-old man developed a serious intestinal infection. When his parents raced to the college to see him at the infirmary, the doctors would not share with them any information regarding their son's illness. Since their son was legally an adult, federal privacy laws prevented the medical staff from discussing his condition or treatment. It was then that the parents realized their son should have had a health care power of attorney.

A power of attorney assigns the responsibility for making medical or legal decisions to a trusted adult. These documents can be effective immediately, but if they are written to be enacted only in a medical emergency, time may be wasted while authorities determine if the child is unable to make the decisions. Some students may be reluctant to sign powers of attorney that may allow their parents the right to interfere in their lives, so some persuasion may be necessary.

Health care proxy and durable power of attorney are often associated with the estate planning packages of elderly citizens. However, more Oklahoma parents are seeing the benefit of sending their children off to college with these documents in effect. Consulting an attorney for guidance and advice will provide one with the options available for each unique situation.

Source: Forbes, "Two Documents Every 18-Year-Old Should Sign", Deborah L. Jacobs, Accessed on April 28, 2017

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