Education Planning

Sending Your Child to College? Make Sure They Sign These Two Documents First

June 14th, 2017

With the fall semester quickly approaching, many parents are frantically attempting to assist their soon-to-be college student in purchasing dorm room furniture, enrolling in classes, or pondering the seemingly limitless possibilities of what their child's newly-empty bedroom could become (a workout space or home office, perhaps?). Often overlooked during this frantic time are some simple, but critical, actions parents may take to ensure their kid, now 18 and officially an adult, is sufficiently safeguarded in the case of an emergency.

What if your "now-adult" child becomes ill at school?

Imagine your college student is 1,000 miles away from you at school and gets sick. What seems like a minor bout with the flu turns more serious and soon your student is being admitted to the hospital. As a parent, you are desperate for information on your student’s health status while trying to make travel arrangements to get there as soon as possible.

Although you will more than likely always think of your college student as your baby, because he or she is 18, the hospital will treat your baby as an adult. This means the hospital will not release any information regarding your student’s medical status or treatment to you. You will need to rely on your sick student to relay information to you, if He or she is able. If your child is unconscious or unable to speak, you would be left without any information. That is a terrible feeling that we are sure no parent would want to experience.

What Can You Do?

Addressing medical records, healthcare decisions, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) are not usually on the list of things to do before sending a kid off to school, but they should be.

HIPAA was created to offer data privacy and security guidelines in order to better protect individuals' medical records and information.

  1. For example, if a patient visits to the doctor for a blood test, the doctor will issue a document asking if it's alright to leave the findings on the patient's voicemail or share them with a specified family member. FERPA, on the other hand, has a similar goal of safeguarding the privacy of people' information, although it relates primarily to student educational records. However, because schools often operate on-campus health clinics, records held within those clinics may be FERPA protected and subject to many of the same sorts of limitations that a child's HIPAA information would be at a hospital.
  2. If a kid is beyond the age of 18 and becomes disabled at school, a parent may be unable to acquire medical information or make choices on their child's behalf under HIPAA and FERPA restrictions. It is critical to have a healthcare power of attorney and a durable power of attorney in place to avoid this from happening. The healthcare power of attorney is a legal document that authorizes a parent to serve as the child's agent in medical issues, including access to the child's medical records and the ability to make healthcare decisions on their child's behalf. If an end-of-life choice must be made, this document may also state the child's preferences.

A durable power of attorney, like its healthcare counterpart, permits a parent to serve as an agent for a child in other areas (mainly financial) in the event their kid becomes incapacitated or is unable to manage medical difficulties. It may also provide parents access to their child's grades, which are likewise restricted until the youngster reaches the age of 18 under FERPA. Keeping both a physical and electronic copy of these documents (your wealth advisor can help you find a good way to manage these types of documents digitally) allows a parent to offer guidance or help make potentially life-saving decisions on behalf of their child when the child may not be able to do so on his or her own.

Because healthcare proxies and durable powers of attorney are legally enforceable agreements, it is critical that the parent and child have an attorney with experience preparing these sorts of forms handle the paperwork. While it may not be as exciting as shopping for the ideal dorm room decor, having the right planning papers in hand when a kid departs for college may provide peace of mind and assist guarantee that you and your family are well prepared should a terrifying circumstance happen.

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