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News & Info

Estate Planning for College-Age Kids

Jun 03 2014

Written by Jason C. Henbest, Esq. and Brittany Saxton

Surprising Information Parents Should Know!

           Your child is in limbo between adolescence and adulthood as a recent, or soon-to-be, 18 year old.  He or she is on track to graduate from Barnegat, Lacey, or Southern Regional High School.  They have ambitious dreams of pursuing a college education, trade school, or full-time employment and may be moving to a different state to pursue these dreams.  What you may not know is that the independence your adolescent child craved throughout high school is no longer a figment of their imagination once they turn 18.  Your baby is grown up, and they are regarded as legal, independent adults by the State of New Jersey amidst this period of immense change in their lives. 

           Since 18 is the age of majority in New Jersey, your child is now responsible for their own medical and financial decisions.  If your child is miles away at school or their place of employment and becomes ill, the proper planning needs to be in place if you are going to be able to give them all the help they might need.   Two essential documents that any person 18+ should possess include:

Health Care Power of Attorney/Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Authorization: This document determines an agent(s) for health care decisions along with a HIPAA release in regard to accessibility to medical records and care for your child.
General Durable Power of Attorney:  This document appoints an agent(s) to prepare financial decisions in regard to bank accounts and paying bills for your child.  A “springing” power of attorney is especially helpful if parents plan to heavily invest in their adult child’s finances.  
         Ultimately, unless you plan ahead, you will be unable to act on behalf of your child in the most critical capacities. Court intervention would be required.  Filing a petition to be named as your own child’s legal guardian is not only costly, but it is emotionally tolling when your primary concern is the health of your child.  These basic estate planning documents prepare you, as the parent, for this next phase of your child’s life. 

         These are not easy issues to discuss with your family.  However, it is better to be one step ahead in this process, to avoid timely and consequential legal matters, while at the same time reiterating your child’s emergence into the independent ‘real world.’

-Jason C. Henbest, Esq. and Brittany Saxton