College students in North Carolina and around the country may feel that they have little need to worry about estate planning, but this type of thinking can cause real problems in an emergency situation. While young people are unlikely to have accumulated enough assets to concern themselves with wills or trusts, other estate planning tools like health care authorizations and powers of attorney could be extremely valuable even to those who still have decades of life ahead of them.

Many college students are covered by their parents’ health insurance policies, but that does not mean their loved ones will be able to step in and help out in an emergency. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act prevents health care providers from sharing information even with parents, but this situation can be remedied by drafting a HIPAA authorization. This document authorizes hospitals and doctors to allow the person listed on the document to receive and use medical information.

Durable powers of attorney and health care powers of attorney could be even more important. These documents authorize trusted individuals to make crucial decisions should the drafter be unable to do so due to incapacity caused by injury, illness or mental health problems. Durable powers of attorney cover legal issues and financial transactions, and health care powers of attorney deal with decisions about medical treatment and specify the point at which treatment should cease. Young people usually authorize their parents to make these decisions, but powers of attorney can also give this responsibility to spouses, other family members or close friends.

Attorneys with estate planning experience could help individuals of all ages to prepare for life’s emergencies by drafting powers of attorney and health care authorizations, and they could also argue on their behalf if the provisions of these documents are challenged in court. Once these estate planning tools are in place, attorneys may suggest reviewing them periodically or after major life events.