Estate Planning, Probate & Elder Law Tips, Tricks, News, Upcoming Events & More

Case Study: Why Your College Student Should Have Estate Planning Documents in Place and Some are Not the “Usual” Ones

Simplifying our lives sounds great – we crave it for many of the things in our lives.  In fact, we watch endless videos on how to organize our homes to make us feel “put together”, find things easily.  We spend minutes, hours, days, and even weeks of our lives doing this.  Why?  To set us free from that helplessness we feel when we find ourselves in complicated clutter.  The reduction of the clutter allows us to focus on the things in our lives that matter.

For those who have children turning into legal adults at the age of 18 in Texas, it is very difficult for us to magically see them as “adults” when that birthday happens. We want to continue to help them get through college, their first job – wherever their life is taking them. However, the law does not wear our emotional blinders or bias like we do and their lives – and ours – can end up in a complicated clutter.  With respect to estate planning, this clutter may not be easily cleaned up and could leave devastating results. So, let’s take a look into why your adult college student should have certain estate planning documents in place for their protection and for an easier, simpler future for them and us.

The Case Study of Carol and Her Son, Kyle*

Carol is an advocate for estate planning being a necessity at ALL ages as she knows – just like we all do – that life is constantly throwing at us defining moments, different stages, and new chapters where we look to what happened to others before us for the “what to expect” details.  In fact, for this reason, Carol has her own estate plan in place.

BUT, then Carol learned of a scary experience her friend and the friend’s daughter (who just turned 18), went through when it came to legal consent and documentation at a serious hospital visit.  Because the daughter was an adult, without the necessary, legal consents and documentation, her friend found herself helpless with respect to making medical decisions for her daughter.  Carol knew it was then time to make a call because Kyle had just turned 18.

Horrified that such a situation could happen to Kyle, this eye-opening lesson led Carol to believe that her son having some legal documents in place when he turned 18 was immensely important because she found out that despite what parents think, it does not matter if your child is on your health insurance or you have identification to prove that your child is your child – the law mandates that if your child is an ADULT, a hospital, doctor’s office, etc. cannot automatically give you any information or allow you to make medical decisions for them. While you hope to never have to use such legal documents, you and your adult child will all be glad they are in place should tragedy strike or even if your adult child needs assistance with doctor visits, getting information for you to make a claim for them on your own insurance or theirs, etc.

On the other hand, this potential “clutter” is not just about medical issues that may arise – the clutter can happen while trying to help young adult child with respect to their financial situation, assisting them with their college, their bills, etc.  It doesn’t matter if the car is in your name or you paid the tuition for the college – it is about them being an adult and what they legally need in order for you to help them.  For example, what if Kyle graduates from high school and moves to San Marcos to attend Texas State University and is living in a residence hall on campus?  Carol and her husband thought it best not to let him take his truck because they wanted to ensure he had the time to get settled in, learn where things were, and get used to being in a different town and in a different environment before embarking on that new journey with a car.  BUT, low and behold… the first week Kyle was able to take his truck to college, he got a parking ticket resulting in a hold on his student account!  Carol tried to call the college on Kyle’s behalf in the hope of negotiating a first offense way out or other resolution.  Unfortunately, the college would not talk with Carol because, they said, “Sorry, he’s an ADULT and we cannot talk with you about this…”

Is there a way that Carol can help her son in this type of situation?  Yes, but not until after Kyle executes some necessary estate planning documents allowing Carol to be his financial agent and a supported decision maker for Kyle.

The Outstanding Outcome

While we don’t want to control our young adult kids’ lives and decisions, we do want the ability to continue to protect them and help them when they need it.  Kyle executed a College Estate Plan which included all of the necessary legal documents allowing Carol to “take care of business” for him both medically and financially.  Now, neither Kyle nor Carol feel helpless and whenever Kyle needs Carol to make a doctor’s appointment for him or speak with the college regarding his situation, she is able to do so – all with a very simple estate plan.  And, Kyle’s execution of this plan accomplished not only his first act as an adult, which not only made him smile with pride, but, for the first time – at least under the law – allowed him to make decisions about his own life.  How cool is that?

Contact the Law Firm of Blanche D. Smith

So, be like Carol and tell your young, adult child how to get a simpler future by protecting themselves through estate planning.  To learn more about how to protect your child when they go off to college, do not hesitate to reach out to the Law Firm of Blanche D. Smith either by calling (936) 301-0111 or using the contact form below.


* Client names have (quite obviously) been changed.

Monique Hineline

Smith & Smith are very professional, informative, and relatable with examples and stories to ease the estate planning process. I had the best time at their lunch and learn. Even if you already have your estate planning in place I highly recommend attending a lunch and learn. Thanks Smith & Smith!