Several times this year I have written about the importance of getting your adult (yes that means 18 and graduated from high school) kids to do some estate planning of their own. We even created a questionnaire just for the college student.
Why is this so important? Well, as we talked about HERE and HERE, there are two estate planning documents that everyone needs, from the day they turn 18 to the day they die. Those documents are a power of attorney for legal and financial matters, and a health care directive.
As your kids head off to college (or head back to college), it is time to acknowledge what you know is the truth, they are legally their own person. The fact that you pay tuition does not give you the right to get information regarding their health care or financial life, and gives you no legal right to make decisions for them if they are unable to do so for themselves.
Why does this matter? If your son or daughter had an accident or illness while away at school, you may not be able to easily get information about their health situation. If they were in an accident and have a separate bank account, you do not have access their accounts and to take care of their financial needs.
Forgetting the "tragic" side of this, if your child has insurance issues, traffic/ticket issues, or anything else that needs to be taken care of at home while they are away, you need the legal authority to assist them.
This will be all new to your child. They may fear that by signing these documents, they are giving up their hard fought (in their minds anyway) and recently acquired independence. However, the truth is that having a properly drafted legal and financial power of attorney and advance medical directive is the most adult and independent thing they can do. The documents can easily be updated as they marry or have other changes in their life, and they always have the power to override anything you do if they are competent.
We have a handful of clients each year who listen to this suggestion and bring their college bound kid in to our office to do the power of attorney and medical directive forms. Do the kids always understand the import of what they are signing?
To help with this process, we have created an estate planning questionnaire just for college students and young adults. It can be found here. Sit down with your newly minted adult, and help them look over the questionnaire as they start to change the way they are thinking about themselves too.