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Is Your College Student Protected?

As the season changes from summer to fall, many families say goodbye to their kids as they leave for college for the first time.

For many kids, this is their first time they are away from home for an extended period.  Most parents are excited about their child starting this new chapter, but worry at the same time.  They make a list everything that they’ll need while away and make sure they have everything on the list.

Understandably, most families don’t include an estate plan on their list.

Why would an 18-year-old need an estate plan?

The simple answer is that once your child reaches 18 years old, he or she is considered an adult in the eyes of the law.  And as an adult, parents are no longer entitled to see their medical records and make decisions on their behalf.

Many parents mistakenly assume that because they are paying for their child’s education or they are still living under their roof, they have the right make certain decisions.

This is simply not the case because, without the proper documents, parents could be on the outside looking in regarding important decisions about their child.

Healthcare Proxy and HIPAA Authorization

One of thing that keeps a parent up at night while their child is away at college is getting a call telling them that their child was involved in an accident.

The first thing they do is rush to help them as they have done since the day they were born.  But things are a bit different now.

You might be surprised to learn that your 18-year-old child is protected under the federal HIPAA law (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).  So this means medical professionals will require a release signed by your child before providing important medical information.

Also,  court intervention might be required before you can make important medical decisions for your child if they are unable to make the decisions for themselves.

The best way to avoid this situation is to have your child execute a Health Care Proxy and HIPAA authorization before they leave for college.

Your child should appoint a trusted friend or relative as their health care proxy.  This person has the authority to make medical decisions in the event your child is unable to do so.  A HIPAA authorization permits medical practitioners to share information with those named on the form.

Durable Power of Attorney

Another important document for a college-aged child is a durable power of attorney.  This document allows an agent, most often a parent, to handle certain matters if your child is incapacitated or simply away at college such as paying bills, speaking with a landlord or replacing a lost debit card.

It’s important to talk with your children about these issues before they go away to college to make sure they are protected.  The conversation might seem awkward at first, but addressing the subject acknowledges your child’s new-found adulthood and reinforces their independence.