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Do 18-year-old teenagers need to engage in estate planning?

Summer is ending, and many Pennsylvania residents are getting ready to send their 18-year-old teenagers off to college. This scary time signifies the end of the control that parents can legally exert over their children. Whereas, parents could previously make and enforce decisions on their minor children's behalf, now they no longer have a say legally. Under the law, 18-year-olds are legally adults and parents can no longer automatically act on their behalf. This means children now have to authorize their parents to act on their behalf and a couple of estate planning documents should be done before the fall college semester begins.

A quarter of a million young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 end up in the hospital every year, so it makes sense that parents would like to be able to make immediate and necessary healthcare decisions, even if they are thousands of miles away. A healthcare power of attorney is one way that parents can continue to consult with healthcare providers. Parents do not automatically have access to their children's health records, so a HIPAA authorization can help parents avoid delays when time is of the essence. This authorization allows parents to communicate with insurers and healthcare providers to make informed medical decisions.

Although many people associate disability with the elderly, an injury could leave a teenager disabled or unable to make financial decisions for themselves. A financial power of attorney allows parents to make these decisions on behalf of their children and pay utilities, rent, manage loans, etc. A Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act release would also allow parents to talk to school officials and obtain school records, if needed.

Parents don't want to think about the injury to or death of a loved one, especially with new experiences on the way for college-bound children. These estate planning conversations can also pave the way to a discussion about creating these necessary documents, including a will. Dying without a will or not having the necessary estate planning documents in place in case of illness or injury can cause an overwhelming strain on family members, which is why it can be important to discuss these matters with an experienced attorney.

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