Late summer is the time of year parents and recent high school graduates are filled with both excitement and some level of anxiety. Your “child” is entering the world of adulthood and is now legally considered an “adult”. Yikes!
This means all medical and financial decisions can legally be made by your child. In fact, the parent is no longer involved in just about everything without the express consent of your child. This is especially true when it comes to college.
Getting access to your child’s grades, healthcare records, etc. now requires your child to authorize your access. In some cases, verbal authorization may not be enough. Here are four documents that many people heading off to college regularly sign (usually it’s the parents who suggest and nudge them into doing this):
- General Durable Power of Attorney
This power of attorney document specifically gives a parent the ability to act on the child’s behalf regarding any financial or personal matters. If your child becomes incapacitated or otherwise unable to manage his/her financial accounts, for example as a result of an accident, you would be able to speak for him/her in all matters including accessing your child’s bank account, signing checks, signing contracts, dealing with insurance or social security, etc.
A General Durable Power of Attorney is a practical and inexpensive document that makes sense for every child after they turn 18.
- Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare
Similar to the financial durable power of attorney, the Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare allows you, or whomever is designated, to make healthcare related decisions for your child, if he or she is unable to do so on their own. This, along with a HIPAA Authorization, allows the medical staff to communicate openly with you regarding your adult child’s healthcare.
- HIPAA Authorization
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was created to protect a patient’s privacy. Unfortunately, once your child turns eighteen years old, this Act prevents your child’s healthcare providers from disclosing any information to you regarding your child. College healthcare services are particularly rigid about patient privacy. Having a HIPAA authorization and durable power of attorney for healthcare will allow your child’s providers to disclose information to you and will ensure that you have access to all the information needed to make decisions if you child is unable to do so.
- FERPA Authorization and Release
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) dramatically restricts what information a college can share with a parent without the child’s written permission. For example, often a school cannot share any academic (grades/progress), financial, loan or disciplinary information unless your child has authorized it. Often schools have their own authorization form for the child to sign giving them the right to share information with the parent, but often the child has to ask for the form. We suggest that you encourage and ensure that your child signs such a form. If the school does not have their own form, our office can easily draft one for your child to sign and present to his or her school.
Although many college-age children don’t want to think about a Will, that would be an optional fifth document that your child should consider. Although at a young age, it is unlikely that it will be need, it definitely rounds out the estate planning package and ensures that your son or daughter is completely covered in that area.
An experienced estate planning attorney can create these documents for you and ensure the documents meet the legal requirements to be valid. Please contact our office directly should you have any questions. We offer free consultation and welcome the opportunity to speak with you.