Sending a child off to college is a stressful and hectic time for parents. After you’ve helped your child choose the best college, moved him or her into their new apartment, and generally done all you can to ease their transition to life away from home, imagine the following scenario:
You get a call informing you that your son or daughter has been in an accident and is in the hospital. Your child’s college is hours away or out of state. You try to call the hospital and speak to a doctor or nurse, but since your child is over 18 years old, he/she is considered an adult and no one will give you any information on their condition. How can this happen? You’re still the parent, you still financially support and cover your child on your health insurance! One word: HIPAA. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 prevents health care providers from disclosing confidential health care information to anyone other than the patient without written authorization. This is why I recommend every parent ask their child to sign a HIPAA Authorization giving them access to their child’s medical records and information once their child turns 18.
The other essential documents you should ask your child to sign before heading off to college are a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances. If your child is seriously ill or injured and temporarily unable to make medical and financial decisions, unless he or she has already signed Durable Powers of Attorney for health care and finances, you may not be able to direct their medical treatment or take care of their finances. In these circumstances, you would need to petition the probate court for guardianship and possibly conservatorship over your child. This is a burden that can be avoided if you have planned ahead and already had your child sign the necessary documents.
If you have an adult child or loved one who would want you to make medical decisions and take financial actions on their behalf if they were not able to do so for themselves, call me and I will assist you in preparing the necessary documents.