Why Does My College-Bound Child Need a Living Will?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Reviewed by Kellen Bryant, Esq.

Parents, have you considered the fact that, when your child turns 18, you may lose the automatic ability to make healthcare decisions for them? Regardless of whether your son or daughter remains covered by your health insurance or remains financially dependent upon you, adulthood begins at 18 under the law.


This dynamic can complicate a young-adult’s college experience, especially if he or she is injured in an accident or falls ill and requires hospitalization. With COVID-19 surging, parents and students should consider protecting themselves with important health care estate documents that would allow parents to act on behalf of their adult children in an emergency. A living will can be one such protection that can be, unfortunately, often overlooked.


A living will, a type of advance directive, provides instructions for others to follow in the event of a devastating tragedy. If an adult-child is in a persistent vegetative state, unable to communicate or incapacitated due to a terminal medical issue, a living will may provide the adult-child’s premeditated preferences regarding their end-of-life care.


This could include whether to prolong food, water, or care intended to mitigate suffering. A living will can also specify wishes about organ and tissue donations, CPR, shock equipment for cardiac arrest, and antibiotics or antivirals used to treat severe infections.


Without a living will, grieving family members may not know exactly what to do. They might agonize over whether to pursue life-saving procedures or end such efforts. They could also interfere with a young adult’s deeply held desires. For parents and loved ones to know an adult child’s sincere desires,  the topic should be discussed and enshrined in writing in the form of a living will.


Two related documents can complement living wills: a general durable power of attorney and health care surrogate. A general durable power of attorney would allow a parent to make financial and legal decisions on behalf of their adult-child, even in the event the adult-child is incapacitated. A health care proxy affords a person, the agent, the ability to make important medical decisions on behalf of the principal.


Securing a properly crafted living will in addition to other health care estate documents can provide peace of mind for both parents and students. Contact one of our member attorneys for help navigating these challenges. Find a Member Attorney in your area by clicking here.