Now, I'll be the first person to concede that not a lot of college-aged young people need a will. That said, the other two traditional "core" estate planning documents are potentially just as important to people in their late teens as they are to people in their late eighties. Those documents are a health care proxy/living will and a durable power of attorney.
Once a child turns 18, a whole assortment of privacy laws and rights kick in (including HIPAA), making it potentially difficult if not impossible for even a parent to get access to medical records/information at times when having such information might be vitally important to the treatment of an adult child in an emergency medical situation.
Many parents of college-bound children assume that since they're paying the tuition, or that the child is living under their roof, that they have the right to make legal/medical decisions for that child, but the reality is that at 18 that child became a legal adult with the legal right to privacy and to govern their own lives.
There are many examples of parents wishing to speak to doctors about the treatment of their adult child after a car accident or other medical situation that rendered the child unable to give consent for the parents to access their medical records or speak with the doctor about the child's treatment. Not until such children regain consciousness and can give consent is a medical professional allowed to involve the parents in the child's care. For children who do not regain consciousness quickly, parents need to go to court to seek to become a temporary legal guardian, which costs thousands in legal fees and leads to delay that could be tragic to the child's prognosis.
This is not to scare parents, but to bring an important but rarely considered issue to light.
Having a health care proxy/living will set up--perhaps as part of the process of preparing to leave for college--allows the child to name his or her parents as health care agents allowed to have access to medical records and to make medical decisions on the child's behalf if the child is ever unable to. The document--at least the document I provide my clients--also expresses end of life wishes such as life support, etc. Once signed and executed, this document should be shared with the child's primary care physician. It can also be uploaded via an affordable service called Docubank (www.docubank.com), which will store the health care document and other vital health information about the child in a cloud service that can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection via a PIN number on a wallet card provided to the child by Docubank--a wallet card that also includes other types of information needed quickly in a medical emergency, such as known allergies. I offer my clients a Docubank enrollment form, which I can use to enroll them in the service if they wish for me to. The cost is less than $30 per year.
A durable power of attorney for a college-aged child might be less important than the health care document, but executing a durable power of attorney in favor of the parents allows the parents to pay a child's bills, speak to the child's landlord, and numerous other financial and personal transactions if the child is either incapacitated or simply away at college or traveling abroad or any other reason. Otherwise, the parent must seek court permission to do so, at significant time and expense.
As a side benefit, going through this process with a college-aged child may also open the child's eyes and pave the way for thinking responsibly about undertaking other important legal tasks down the road in life, such as setting up a will and other documents that can protect the now-older-and-wiser child's assets, relationships, and loved ones.
If you would like to discuss any of this with me further, you can contact me in a variety of ways by clicking here.