Estates, Wills & Trusts

Your child is grown - my how things change!

Just a few years ago they were your bundles of joy, then your sleepless nights, your evenings and weekends with sports; you were the tutor, they the students. Now they are going to college. My, how things change! And they have changed probably more than you realize.

In Florida as in most states, age eighteen is the age of majority. Your progeny can contract, marry, vote, join the military, cannot drink until 21, but do have privacy rights. Yes, even from you. Their University, School or College cannot provide any privacy protected information to you, including health, grades, class attendance or anything else. A call in the night to inform you that your child has been injured (you were on the Emergency Notification), followed by the statement that they cannot disclose anything more, is seriously distressing. It is even more distressing if that educational institution is a long distance away. So what can you do?

Now, before the migration back to higher learning takes place, consider that if your child executes a Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Designation (called a Health Care Power of Attorney, Authority or Surrogacy - all mean the same), and Living Will, these concerns are generally resolved, because you will have the authority to be informed, and to act on your child's behalf. You could add a Will to the list, although that is more of an education in responsibility than a necessity. Most states provide that the parents are default beneficiaries, and few college age children have much in the way of assets.

Your family or estate planning attorney can quickly prepare these documents; the young generally have simple issues. Call, but be prepared to provide the responses as to who will be named with authority under each document. Probably that will be you as parents, and possibly an older brother or sister, or another relative as a backup in case you aren't available. Remember that it is your child's choice, not yours. Of course, they may prefer going to college than being out on the street, so you do have some influence. Once executed, the documents are usually scanned to PDF files, and can be sent to the institution when needed. The cost to prepare these documents is much less than a plane ticket or lost workday, traveling with the fear that your child needs you.

You may also want to read our other post The Child Card for further thoughts.