Recent empty nester? Do you have a child in college? Summer is coming to an end. The back-to-school season may have brought many changes to your household. Having children go away to college is an exciting, and often emotional, time for many families. While things may be changing, your love for your child remains the same and now your concern for their future and worry for their next chapter begins to unfold. You undoubtedly want to be there to protect them no matter how far they’ve just moved away. Your ‘little boy/girl’ is now an adult and while you may view them as only a phone call away from that senior photo, their legal standing and independence can present challenges to how you are able to help them in a time of crisis.
If your child is hospitalized or otherwise suddenly unable to care for themselves, the doctors will be the ones who make decisions about care. “While this is not always a bad thing, a physician’s primary duty is to keep the patient alive,” the National Law Review notes. “So, a healthcare provider might not pursue a risky or experimental course of treatment at the risk of exposure to liability.”
Medical Power of Attorney
A healthcare power of attorney is a legal document naming you the parent a “medical agent” for your college student. If your child becomes medically incapacitated, you can make informed medical decisions on their behalf.
This document can name you as the sole point of contact and decision-maker. That will allow you to decide the best course of action with the doctors.
General Durable Power of Attorney
If your adult child were ever incapacitated, you would also benefit greatly from having a General Durable Power of Attorney in place, where you were named as the “agent” authorized to make financial decisions on his/her behalf. Otherwise, you will not be able to assist your child in managing his or her financial affairs without a court-appointed conservatorship.
This document allows a college student to give authority to another person (the parents) to make financial/legal decisions. It also allows the parents to make the following financial transactions on the student’s behalf:
- Managing bank accounts
- Paying bills
- Filing taxes
- Applying for government benefits
- Breaking a lease
Ever tried to get an update about a loved one in the hospital over the phone when there’s been a sudden onset of a medical issue? If so, you know it can be difficult, if not impossible, to get the info you need if you’re not authorized. That’s because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).
What you need to cut through the red tape is a HIPAA form. This document lets a patient (your college student) designate certain family members, friends and others who can be updated about their medical info during treatment. Obviously, your student should fill this out before they need it during a medical emergency.
The HIPAA form becomes extremely important if your child is living away at school and gets involved in an accident. That’s because you’re not getting any info over the phone even though you’re their parent — unless you fill out this form.
How Can I Get This Done to Protect my Child?
There are countless forms and templates available online claiming to accomplish various legal-related topics. It’s important that any legal document you are relying on be first thoroughly reviewed by a licensed attorney. State-specific details, certain clauses, and prohibited language aside from best practices and legitimacy are paramount to creating a valuable and effective legal document.
- Legal forms should be reviewed and potentially updated yearly
- Documents are only as effective as the institutions that will accept them. Making sure these documents are properly executed is half the battle; whether they will be accepted by the involved institutions is the other half of the battle—one you don’t have complete control over.
- Your adult child can revoke these documents orally and/or in writing at any time. It’s important to have an open and honest discussion about expectations with your child.
- It can be helpful to execute a set of these documents in your state of residence and in the state where their campus is located. Discuss this with qualified legal counsel.