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3 Legal Documents to Add to Your College Prep Checklist

P. Kristen Bennett - Trusts & Estates Attorney
P. Kristen Bennett – Trusts & Estates Attorney

By P. Kristen Bennett, Esq.

Extra long twin sheets may be on every college-bound kid’s checklist, but what about documents that allow their parents to properly assist in case of a major illness or car accident? In the frenzy of college prep, many families don’t realize that once a child turns 18, parents can no longer make decisions for their child or have access to information including medical, grades or finances. In many cases this is fine, but if there is a car accident or a major illness, parents may struggle to get information without the necessary permission.

Here are the three documents that I recommend every young adult consider before they head off to college, in order of priority:

Advance Health Care Directive

The Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD) is a medical power of appointment and a living will. The medical power of appointment portion of the AHCD allows you to name a person or persons to make medical decisions for you if you are not able to make them yourself. The living will portion of the AHCD allows you to express your wishes about medical treatments, such as a feeding tube, that you either would or would not want used in the event of a terminal illness or if you are permanently unconscious. With an AHCD, you put in place a system to allow your loved ones to make health decisions for you in accordance with your wishes, and it avoids the need for a court-monitored guardianship.

Durable Power of Attorney

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of a living will (and a surprising number of young people are), consider the Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA), which allows you to appoint someone else to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf. The person that you appoint is called your agent. The DPOA is only effective while you are alive, and it gives your loved ones the power to make decisions on your behalf and to ensure that you continue to receive the care that you need. A DPOA can be effective immediately, or it can become effective upon your incapacity. Young adults often make the DPOA effective upon their incapacity since it is unlikely to be needed except in the case of incapacity. Like the AHCD, a DPOA avoids the need for a court-monitored guardianship.

FERPA Consent Form

I also recommend consideration of the FERPA Consent Form. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. When a student signs a FERPA Consent Form, it gives parents certain access to academic records and grades. Most colleges and universities have their own form for this, and it is completely online. The federal government provides a FERPA Student Guide.     

Attorney P. Kristen Bennett is a partner at Gawthrop Greenwood, PC, where she practices in trust and estate administration in Delaware and Pennsylvania and serves on the Executive Management Committee. She is a member of the Mid-Atlantic Fellows Institute of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC), a national organization of trust and estate counselors elected to membership by demonstrating the highest level of integrity, commitment to the profession, competence and experience. Contact Kristen at , 610-696-8225 or 302-777-5353.

P. Kristen Bennett - Trusts & Estates Attorney

Kristen Bennett is a member of Gawthrop Greenwood’s Estates and Trusts Department, and practices in the Wilmington, Delaware office. She focuses her practice on estate planning and administration and trust administration. She also provides counsel on taxation and tax planning for businesses.

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