Last week at our department’s student group meeting, our guest was Andrew Kaiser of The Kaiser Law Firm, PC. He spoke about an important, yet rarely discussed topic, estate planning. As a part of his talk he focused on estate planning tips for college students, young people that think they will never die or get sick. Here are the key points of his talk[i].
Advanced Directive for Health Care Choices: This document allows you to express your written wishes for your health care, should you become physically or mentally unable to communicate them to others. You may specifically state which medical procedures you do or do not want. This document is crucial for whomever you appoint as your durable power of attorney (below), for it will help them make better decisions.
Durable Power of Attorney: We should each designate someone to make health care choices for us, should we be unable to make those decisions. This is in addition to your advanced directive. Find someone that shares your values for end-of-life care and who you can trust to fulfill your request. Moreover, this document should allow the person to be able to request and review your medical and hospital records. This document must be notarized.
HIPAA Privacy Authorization Form: As a father of three college students, I consider this form to be mandatory. The medical information of any person over the age of 18 is private information and no one, not even parents, are allowed to be told this information without this form being signed by the patient. Think for a minute about a mother receiving a phone call that her child was injured and in the emergency room at the hospital. Without this form, legally, the hospital cannot tell that mother if her child has a broken arm or is near death. Moreover, if a parent needs to, say, take medical records from one hospital to another to expedite care, they cannot be given the documents without having this permission granted by their child.
So, this Thanksgiving, after you’ve had your pumpkin pie and everyone is napping in the living room watching the Detroit Lions get beat again, bring this up to your parents. Parents, bring it up to your child. Better yet, many of the parents out there need to get motivated to get their own affairs in order and get this done!
Importantly, we have not broached the broader topic of estate planning, including wills. In many cases, your financial success is dependent on solid counsel so you may wish to contact your lawyer or a legal service office on your college campus to help you make these decisions and to assure that you “do it right”. At the University of Missouri, our office is called Student Legal Services.
If you wish to see example forms or you want to “do it yourself”, forms for Missouri are here: http://members.mobar.org/pdfs/publications/public/dpa.pdf .
[i] We published a Tip on this topic in June of 2008. Yet, because the readership of this newsletter changes overtime and the fact that none of the students present at our meeting had ever acted on these matters, a refresher is due.
Any mistakes in this article are mine and not Mr. Kaiser’s.