How to Avoid a Different Kind of Proxy Fight

In September, I wrote a column titled Majoring in Risk Reduction that gave affluent parents a primer on the many dangers their college-bound kids face and strategies for mitigating and insuring against those dangers.

Recently, estate planning attorney Patricia Annino reminded me of another exposure on this front: the need for college students to have a health care proxy who can make medical decisions in the event injury or illness leaves them unable to do so.

In all but four states, legal adulthood is 18. (It's 19 in Alabama, Delaware and Nebraska, and 21 in Mississippi.) Many parents may not have realized that should the unthinkable befall their adult children, they may not be able to freely consult doctors on their condition and care options.

Unless the child is married, chances are that no one will be in a position to make potentially life-and-death decisions for the child.

Annino advises parents to use the year-end holiday season--and the homecoming of their young adults--to discuss the need to fill out a living will naming a health care proxy.

Andrew McElwee is EVP of Chubb & Son and COO of Chubb Personal Insurance.

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