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Preparing to Send a Child to College

Send these tips to your clients with college-bound children for a great summer touch point.

Susan Chesson, MBA, CTP and Helen Modley, CFP, CPWA, 08/08/2013

College is just around the corner, and your clients' almost-adult children could not be more excited. Of course they have planned for all the expected things that occur at college, but have they prepared themselves and their children for those unexpected things in the "Life Happens" department? Here are some tips you can provide to your clients with college-bound kids.

Durable Power of Attorney
In the event of a serious accident or travel abroad, situations arise where you may need to intervene legally on your child's behalf or require your child's signature. Have your children that are age 18 or older execute a power of attorney for one or both parents.

Advance Medical Directive
Most college-aged students are legally adults, so parents no longer have automatic access to their medical information. If they are in an accident or become severely ill, you may have to jump through hoops to obtain medical information about their situation. An Advance Medical Directive can prevent this problem. 

Store the document in a fire-proof safe with other valuables but keep it handy in case you do need to make use of it in an emergency. Be sure that whoever is named as agent knows about the directive and has a copy. This can be particularly important in the case of strong religious beliefs or divorced parents.

Property Insurance
Homeowners insurance policies typically cover up to 10% of covered household property value for students living in on-campus housing. If your student is taking valuable items to school such as an expensive computer, jewelry, or a musical instrument, you may need to purchase a rider that provides added protection for certain items that may be excluded or have low limits on your homeowners insurance policy.

If students are renting an off-campus apartment, check with your insurance company to see if their property is covered by your homeowners policy. You may need to purchase renters insurance to cover their belongings if they are not living in a dorm.

Spend some time explaining to students how an insurance claim is typically processed. Remind them that no matter how safe their campus feels, and how trusting they may be, locking up valuables is always smarter than leaving them out for anyone to see or take. Walk your child through an insurance-claims process--explain why your policy has a deductible and let them know the dollar value. A standard homeowners insurance policy offers very limited coverage on lost cash, typically no more than $200, so encourage them to minimize the amount of cash they carry in their wallets or stash in their rooms.

In Case of an Accident
Teach your adult children how to respond if a car accident occurs. Instruct them to use that ever-present cell phone to record the scene and any car damage. Have them take a photo of their car insurance card, front and back, so that it is always handy. Be sure they know what information to collect and provide to the other party if they are involved in an accident.

Helen Modly, CFP, ChFC, is executive vice president and director of investment services for Focus Wealth Management, a fee-only registered investment advisor in Middleburg, Va. Modly has more than 20 years of experience providing wealth-management services. She is a member of NAPFA and FPA. She can be reached at info@focus-wealth.com.

Susan Chesson joined Focus Wealth Management after a 20-year career in corporate treasury, fixed income investing and banking operations. While managing multi-billion dollar portfolios was interesting (and stressful), she was always more interested in personal financial planning and finally left the corporate world in 2010 to spend a year studying for the Executive Certificate in Financial Planning at Georgetown University.

The authors are freelance contributors to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.

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