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Have kids in college? Consider a health care directive

When a child goes off to college, parents fuss over what they will need for their dorm rooms, warn them of the dangers of drinking, make sure that they have enough money in their food accounts and feel sad at the knowledge that their house will be a little too quiet.

No one would diminish those thoughts and concerns, but what few parents plan for is what they will do in the event that their child is seriously injured. A living will or heath care directive is not something most parents with a child away would consider, but it is something that they should.

After a child turns 18, the parent does not have the same access to their child's medical records. They also do not have the same power over medical decisions and finances. Consider having a serious discussion with your child about their wishes. Understanding what your child really wants will help you if something were to happen.

But simply knowing what they want is not enough under the eyes of the law. Your next step should be to consult an attorney who is experienced in estate planning matters. The attorney can help you draft not only a secure agreement, but catch other possible issues that you may have overlooked.

While your child decides where they want their career to go, you can help them come up with a plan that should include a health-care directive, a HIPAA release and power of attorney. That way, as an informed parent, you can make the decisions you know will best benefit your child should something happen.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Before You Choose That College...," Veronica Dagher, March 14, 2011

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