Protect Your Family

3 Signatures You Want Before Sending Your Child to College

Mother dropping off her son at college, “3 Signatures You Want Before Sending Your Child to College”

Even if they are still a dependent, once your son or daughter turns age 18, their legal relationship with you is in most respects severed. In case of a medical emergency, this means that even though you are their parent, physicians and/or hospital staff may elect not to share information about your child’s health situation and care with you in order to protect themselves from potential litigation.

Why? Because the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) signed in 1996 includes a number of strict privacy provisions to ensure the safeguarding of an individual’s personal medical information without written authority. As a result, there are several documents that you should urge your child to complete and sign before heading off to college.

  1. A HIPPA Information Release – by completing and signing this form, your child will be able to authorize healthcare providers to disclose his or her medical information to you for a specific period of time. You can download a state-specific form from your State government’s website, or print and complete the simple version available from the American Bar Association. Although there’s no need to have this document notarized, make sure you urge your child to keep it with them in a wallet or purse at all times.

  2. A Healthcare Proxy – also known as a Medical Power of Attorney, this advanced medical directive allows your child to appoint you as their agent to make medical decisions on their behalf should they become incapacitated. While no parent wants to contemplate an accident or medical emergence for their child, you’ll be thankful to have taken this precaution if ever needed. Keep in mind, however, that each state has its own unique version of this form (and some require that it be notarized).

  3. A Durable Power of Attorney – while the other two documents deal with medical care, this one allows you to act on your child’s behalf (if needed) in various legal and financial matters such as filing tax returns, accessing savings or paying bills. It can be structured in a number of ways – for a specific time period, or triggered only in cases where the child is deemed incapacitated or incompetent. And it can prove especially helpful if your child decides to study abroad for a semester, so you can pay their bills or wire money from their accounts.

Just because you’re footing the bill for your child’s tuition and health insurance, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you still have all the parental rights you had before they reached legal adulthood. A few minutes of your child’s time in filling out and signing these legal documents can avoid a lifetime of regret should an emergency ever happen. Talk to your attorney and financial advisor, as they can both assist you in this important endeavor.

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