Parents, if you do nothing else before sending your student off to college, please consider taking action to protect your child and yourself TODAY.
Did you know that once your child turns 18, they are considered strangers to you under HIPAA laws? So if something should happen to your kid, you have no access to speak with their doctor or hospital personnel. Scary, right? I found out the hard way when my oldest went off to college and had an incident that got her hospitalized. I called the campus health center (who recommended that she go to the ER) to find out what hospital she was in. Because I did not have a medical power of attorney for her, they wouldn’t even acknowledge that she was even a patient. The only way I knew where she ended up was when she called me because she knew I was going to get the bill. So much for parents’ rights!
In any event, after much research, there are four legal documents I highly recommend you get your kids (and you) to sign before heading off for college or anywhere for that matter:
Durable Power of Attorney. This allows your child to authorize you to manage his/her financial affairs during any incapacitation (unconscious, coma, hospitalization, etc.) such as pay bills, apply for any social security or government benefits, and opening and closing of accounts. You can download state-specific forms here: Sample form
Medical Power of Attorney. This very important document allows your child to authorize you to make medical decisions if he or she can’t. This is also known as your Living Will and Healthcare Proxy. I cannot stress how important this document is. Download your state-specific form here: Sample form
HIPAA Authorization. Your child allows you access to medical records. While the POA does this, your child must be incapacitated for it to kick in. With the HIPAA form, you can inquire at any time. Often kids in their first year of college are unsure how to handle a medical situation. This form comes in very handy. Sample form
FERPA Release. Since you are probably paying for college, this form allows you to speak with the school about your child’s grades, etc. Just ask the college directly for this form since each usually have their own form that they use for this purpose. Without it, you have no rights to speak to the school about your child even though you are writing the checks! Be prepared.
A particular form that I highly recommend everyone over 18 in the family fill out is Five Wishes. This is an extended Advance Directive that is more comprehensive than state-specific forms. I usually have families complete this one along with the state form. I use it as a good conversation starter for how you want to be treated at end of life. It’s never too early to start the discussion.
Don’t wait until it’s too late!
Patti Urban, CSA, is the CEO of Aging Care Planning Solutions, an aging life care management company that assists the elderly and their families with advance care planning as well as guidance for patients with life-limiting illnesses. She can be reached at www.agingcareps.com.