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When Your Children Leave for College, Who Makes Decisions for Them?

When Your Children Leave for College, Who Makes Decisions for Them?

Group of happy young students in a university.

When your children leave for college, your ability to make decisions for them changes dramatically. Often they no longer live in your house, they are legally adults, and they become more independent. This big transition in your family’s lives could affect your and your child’s estate or future planning.

Legal Adult Status

Depending on your child’s birthdate, he or she may have turned age eighteen before leaving for college. If the big birthday is coming up, you should know that your child will become a legal adult. This means your child can agree to legal contracts, sign leases, vote, and make his own will or trust. If you are the guardian of your child or a foster parent, the relationship will end at age eighteen.

Medical Decisions

Adults can make their own healthcare decisions. The law prevents others (such as parents) from accessing their medical records or making decisions for them. You will not be able to speak to your child’s doctors without his or her permission. College students often go to the student health center, which will protect the students’ medical information by following laws such as the HIPAA.

Your child may agree that you should have access to medical records and want your help in making medical decisions. If so, then consider signing a written authorization with the health care provider. Students with significant medical needs should consider signing durable powers of attorney or health care directives.

Financial Decisions

Adults also can make their own financial decisions. College students frequently get targeted by credit card and student loan companies eager to sign up financially inexperienced people. Be careful when co-signing student loans for your child, and make sure you factor loan debt into your financial planning. Talk to your child about credit card debt, which can lead to low credit scores and hounding creditors.

In addition, your child probably needs his or her own bank account. The joint bank accounts banks use for minors may not cut it anymore. When your child gets a new account, you will not be able to check the balance or deposit any money in it.

Talk to your child before he or she leaves for college about decisions you can no longer make. Your child may need to do some estate planning if an inheritance is expected or if he or she earned significant money before graduating high school. Also, you may need to make some changes to your estate plan to account for your child’s legal adult status.

Planning for an empty nest? Angela Klenk, Esq. and the team at Beach Cities Estate Law couple personalized attention to your estate plan with big law firm experience for a winning combination to give you peace of mind. To schedule a case evaluation, visit Beach Cities Estate Law online or call Angela’s office at (424) 400-2125.

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