Transitioning to College: A Guide to Legal and Financial Readiness

Transitioning to College: A Guide to Legal and Financial Readiness

As autumn’s crisp breeze heralds the start of a new school year, parents across the country are bustling with preparations to bid their children farewell as they embark on their college journeys. This juncture, laden with a mix of parental pride and a touch of nostalgia, presents a unique opportunity to engage in profound conversations about the responsibilities that accompany legal adulthood.

Turning 18 brings about a seismic shift in the landscape of both responsibilities and rights, signifying the dawn of an era where decisions hold more weight, and personal agency takes center stage. It’s essential for parents and guardians to not only celebrate this transition but to also engage in earnest conversations about the duties that come hand in hand with newfound autonomy. Legal adulthood not only bestows the ability to sign contracts and manage personal affairs but also lays the foundation for a series of obligations that, when proactively addressed, can stave off potential challenges down the line.

In this blog post, we delve into the indispensable nature of legal and estate planning documents for college-bound students, shedding light on why they matter and how they shape the path ahead.

Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney is a legal document that grants someone the authority to make financial and legal decisions on behalf of the student, should they become incapacitated or unable to make decisions for themselves. While students might be healthy and independent now, unforeseen accidents or illnesses can happen. By designating a trusted family member or close friend as an agent, college-bound students ensure that their financial matters will be handled appropriately if they’re unable to do so themselves.

Healthcare Proxy

Similar to a durable power of attorney, a healthcare proxy, or medical power of attorney, designates someone to make medical decisions on the student’s behalf if they’re unable to communicate their wishes due to a medical emergency.

HIPAA Authorization

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects the privacy of individuals’ medical information. Without proper authorization, even parents might find it difficult to access their child’s medical records once they turn 18. By signing a HIPAA authorization form, students can grant specific individuals access to their medical information, ensuring that their loved ones can advocate for their healthcare needs when necessary.


Creating a basic will might not seem necessary for young adults, but having a will in place ensures that their assets are distributed according to their wishes in the event of their passing. Even if a student doesn’t have significant assets, a will can provide clarity on sentimental items, digital assets, and personal preferences for their belongings.

Advance Healthcare Directive (Living Will)

An advance healthcare directive, often referred to as a living will, outlines an individual’s preferences for end-of-life medical care. While this might be a difficult topic to address, having a clear plan in place can help avoid family disagreements and ensure that the student’s wishes are respected.

From healthcare decisions to financial management, the responsibilities tied to turning 18 are far-reaching. The unexpected nature of life necessitates that discussions about healthcare proxies and durable power of attorney be initiated. These documents, which may seem daunting at first glance, serve as a vital safety net. They empower young adults to make decisions about their medical care when they cannot, ensuring their preferences are respected even in challenging times. Moreover, they allow designated individuals to manage financial matters when unforeseen circumstances arise, enabling the seamless continuation of their financial well-being.

In the culmination of these discussions and considerations, we emphasize the essence of preparedness for the journey ahead. While the excitement of college often centers around academic pursuits and newfound independence, it’s equally crucial to equip young adults with the tools to navigate the responsibilities that legal adulthood brings. Legal and estate planning documents not only serve as safeguards for the future but also impart life skills that resonate beyond the college years. After all, the college journey is more than just a physical departure – it’s a voyage towards autonomy and empowerment, and with the right preparations, it’s a journey that can be traversed with assurance and readiness.

Have Additional Questions?

If you would like to learn more about implementing an estate plan for your family, our team is here to help. Please contact us for more information.

Rebecca McNabb, J.D., LL.M., serves as Vice President and Trust Officer for Magnolia Trust Company. In this role, Rebecca brings her legal background and trust administration experience to support the areas of complex estate planning and trust administration issues.

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