TIPS FOR LEGAL PROTECTIONS AND GREATER PEACE OF MIND
We find ourselves in the season of celebration for high school graduates, and it’s a time when many families are filled with both excitement and anticipation as their children embark on their college journeys. While this new chapter is filled with hope and promise, it’s only natural for parents to experience a range of emotions and concerns about the new college student experience. We want nothing but the best for our children, and their safety, well-being, and ability to navigate the responsibilities of college life become paramount in our minds. However, by taking proactive measures, like completing the four important documents we’ll discuss below, it’s possible to alleviate some of our parental worries.
Understanding the Importance of These Documents
Let’s clarify exactly why these documents matter before we delve into the details.
Parenting is a lifelong journey that doesn’t stop when our children turn 18, even though they’re considered adults in the eyes of the law. We might still see ourselves in the roles of protectors and decision-makers for our children, but the attainment of legal adulthood comes with a shift in our rights. While you might have full trust in your new college student and in their ability to make good choices, an unexpected emergency situation can present a challenge.
If you’re familiar with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), you know it’s about health information privacy. In essence, it sets guidelines for medical providers regarding the disclosure of patient information. It does include provisions for medical professionals to exercise judgment during emergencies, but they may hesitate to do so if they lack an established relationship with the patient or their family. Of course, this could be a common occurrence in a college town, where many students are new to the area.
Hopefully, your college student will never encounter a medical emergency. Still, it can be comforting to take proactive measures to gain peace of mind and legal protections. The presence of HIPAA regulations means that in the event your child requires immediate hospitalization, you will not have immediate access to their medical records, nor will you possess the authority to make medical decisions on their behalf. If you don’t have the appropriate documentation in place, healthcare providers are bound by law and won’t be able to disclose your adult child’s information, even if they genuinely want to. However, you can navigate this challenge by understanding the implications of these circumstances and taking preemptive action, which is what we’ll discuss below.
Four Documents to Help You and Your Child Prepare for College
To ensure that you maintain access to vital health information and have the ability to make informed decisions in the best interest of your child, whether they are in college or facing any other emergency situation, it is crucial to have the following essential documents in place:
1. Medical Power of Attorney
Establishing a Medical Power of Attorney, commonly referred to as a healthcare proxy, is vital to ensure you have the necessary authority to make medical decisions for your college student in the event of their incapacity. This legally binding document empowers you as their trusted agent, enabling you to act on their behalf when they are unable to make medical choices independently. By taking this important step, you can have peace of mind knowing that you have the legal authority to advocate for your child’s well-being and make crucial medical decisions when they most need your support.
You can utilize this Health Care Advanced Planning Toolkit from the American Bar Association, which includes a Medical Power of Attorney form that’s easy to complete. You can also choose to consult an estate planning attorney to have a customized document created. Note that the specific regulations governing Medical Power of Attorney vary from state to state, and certain states may require two witnesses who are not related to the family or the involvement of a notary public.
2. HIPAA Authorization
A Medical Power of Attorney (POA) often includes a HIPAA authorization, but if not, obtaining a separate HIPAA authorization form is crucial before your new college student leaves home. This document allows healthcare providers to share your child’s health information with you. It’s important to note that these authorizations also respect your child’s privacy, ensuring confidentiality on sensitive topics. However, in emergencies, the authorization form grants you access to such information if your child wishes to keep you informed.
3. Durable Power of Attorney
Obtaining a Power of Attorney (POA) means that you are granted the authority to serve as your child’s “attorney-in-fact” or “agent,” extending beyond the realm of medical incapacitation. What this means is that you would have comprehensive powers to handle various aspects of your child’s affairs, such as engaging in contractual agreements and accessing their bank accounts. This becomes particularly important if you need to address financial responsibilities, like paying your child’s bills or managing their financial activities, during a time when they are medically incapacitated.
4. FERPA Release
As you’ve navigated the college acceptance process with your new college student, you may have become familiar with FERPA, which stands for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. This legislation safeguards the confidentiality of your student’s educational records. Under this law, parents are generally restricted from accessing their child’s course grades or college transcripts. If your college student signs a release, however, you can be granted permission to receive educational records without prior consent.
It’s true that this document may not directly relate to emergency medical situations. However, consider its value in a situation where your college student is injured or ill. This may significantly affect their academic performance and necessitate your communication with university staff on their behalf. It’s a step that may also hold importance for parents who are financially supporting their child’s education and wish to know their academic standing.
What About Financial Literacy?
While having the aforementioned documents in place for emergency situations during your child’s college years is valuable, it’s essential to keep in mind that they will also encounter various minor challenges throughout this transformative period. Developing financial literacy is important, and these resources can facilitate open communication between you and your child about money matters while equipping them with strategies for making sound financial choices while living independently from you.
If you’re interested in further discussing this or any other financial planning topic, please don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule a conversation. At TriCapital, we believe it’s important to help our clients feel informed and empowered. If you’d like to learn more about how we can serve you, get in touch today. We look forward to hearing from you!