There is certainly something special about this time of the year that is far more than the blooming flowers and sunlight. It is also college acceptance season. That means that most high school seniors are celebrating the closing of this chapter and the start of their next.

However, while they are thinking about dorm room decisions and making lists of all of the dorm room items they need, one crucial aspect is often overlooked. That is to ensure that your 18-year-old is legally prepared for college life.

There are specific strategies that parents need to take right now to ensure that their new young adult is truly ready to embark on this next step. That includes planning for medical emergencies and managing finances. Being proactive now can help provide you with peace of mind (and your child, too).

Jersey Coast Family Law can offer guidance and help. We offer estate planning services for our family law clients that are designed to help your young adult protect themselves for years to come. Take a look at these legal documents for college students and, even more importantly, make sure you understand 18-year-old legal rights (they are all changing at this point in their lives).

Health Care Proxy (or Medical Power of Attorney)

A good starting point is the assigning of a Medical Power of Attorney, also called the designation of a Health Care Proxy. When your child is under the age of 18, you, as a parent, have the ability to make all medical decisions for them. Turning 18 changes that. With a Health Care Proxy, they can designate who makes those decisions for them when they cannot do so on their own.

While no one wants to think about these things when it comes to their child, the reality is an accident can occur anywhere and at any time. With this designation in place, if they become incapacitated and unable to make their own decisions and speak to their doctors, the designated person can do so.

In many states, a HIPAA Release is a component of this document. That allows for the person designated to have access to their medical records. It is important to know what your state’s laws are in this area since they can change significantly. You want to be sure that, in any situation, that you are able to request access to medical documents (or someone else can) and that someone is appointed to make medical decisions.

Durable Power of Attorney

The next component to put into place is a Durable Power of Attorney. This legally binding document allows for someone to be authorized to handle the financial affairs of the student in situations when they cannot do so on their own.

For example, if a child is incapacitated for any reason, the person named as the Durable Power of Attorney has the ability to make payments for the student. They can also manage bank accounts and file taxes on behalf of the student. This type of document is beneficial in one of those “what if” situations if there is any indication that the student cannot make those decisions alone.

FERPA Release (Optional)

Another option is more of an optional decision for the student. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is an interesting tool that parents may wish to speak to their college students about as they enter into this stage of their life.

As a new adult, the parent does not automatically or legally have the right to see the student’s grades or to access any of their college educational information and documentation. They are their own adult. However, with a FERPA release, if the student decides to sign it, it is possible for parents to have access to the child’s college grades as well as their financial aid information. This is a decision you should make with your child based on the level of privacy and responsibility they want to maintain on their own.

Living Will (Optional)

Another important document to begin the conversation about is a Living Will. Again, most parents do not want to think about the need for such a tool. Yet, there is no way to know when something could happen. When there are strong opinions about end-of-life care and needs, it should be outlined in a living will.

An 18-year-old does not typically need to have a Living Will in place. However, if the student has strong opinions or desires in such situations, they may wish to choose to have one. For example, some students may want to be an organ donor. Others may feel strongly against this. A Living Will may help provide some peace of mind in these situations. It also helps parents to be released from having to make decisions for their child without knowing their preferences.

How to Help Your College Student

College acceptance season is always one of the best times for your child’s young life. While you may not want to have all of these difficult conversations with your child right now, putting these legal documents in place now can be critical if they are ever needed. Keep the following in mind:

  • A Medical Power of Attorney for college students (along with other documents) do not remain in place indefinitely. The college student can make changes over time if they decide to do so.
  • A Durable Power of Attorney for college students (or anyone else) is not just the final decision maker. They are tasked with making decisions they believe the student wants without consideration for their personal opinion.
  • Setting up an appointment with a New Jersey family lawyer can help you navigate all of the specific concerns and needs you may have at this time.

Learn More: Shared Responsibilities: Divorced Parents and College Expenses in New Jersey

Contact Our Family Law Attorneys to Discuss Your Case

Our New Jersey family lawyers can help you to prepare your son or daughter for their newfound freedom as an adult. At Jersey Coast Family Law, Where Family Comes First, we can help you put in place the legal tools to gain peace of mind.

Call us at 732-361-4718 today. We have offices in Toms River and Red Bank to serve clients throughout New Jersey.