For the past few years, you’ve done all the research. Taken all the important trips to visit the colleges your child is interested in attending. You’ve asked and answered questions like, “What college should I go to?” and now that you’ve been accepted to the school of your choice, other questions are starting to pop up, like, “What do I need for college?”
You’ve probably already put together your college checklist and are marking items off the list. That’s great! But, if you have a child going to college, or you are getting ready to go to college yourself, there are three important legal documents you need to add to your school prep list:
- Power of Attorney for Health
- Power of Attorney for Finance
- HIPAA Release Form
We’ll even show you how easy and affordable it is to create these documents in less than 10 minutes through Mama Bear Legal Forms. In fact, if you sign up today using promo code MAMABEARBLOG, you can save 20% off your order!
3 Documents You Need When a Child is Going to College
It’s an exciting time for every family when a child goes off to college, and it’s important to be prepared. Getting these three documents in order will help you do just that. Here, we explain what each form is and share why you and your child might need it.
#1: Power of Attorney Form for Health – What it is and why you need one.
Also called a healthcare POA, this form gives parents the authority to make medical decisions for their adult children, should they get into an accident, or just want help discussing medical decisions with their doctors.
Most parents assume they already have this authority. That’s not the case. Once a child turns 18, or in the case of medical care in some states, as young as 12 years old, parents do not have the right to make medical or financial decisions for them.
Unless you have a power of attorney financial form, which we discuss next, and a healthcare power of attorney form in place, you are not authorized to help your child manage his or her healthcare decisions. At age 18 (or 19 in some states), HIPAA privacy laws prevent healthcare providers from discussing anything about your child’s health or medical bills with you.
Even more troublesome is the reality that laws regarding discussing protected health information with next of kin vary by state. So, if your child is going to college in another state than the one in which you reside, and an accident occurs, you could be powerless to help them.
As we shared in our Young Adult POA article, while some states allow a close relative or friend to access information and make decisions, others don’t. First, surrogate laws can create confusion and conflict because it’s not always clear who the next of kin (or close relative) is.
Questions like these create different scenarios in various states:
- What if more than one person is equally related to a child?
- Which parent makes the decisions?
- What if parents are divorced?
In the absence of a properly executed power of attorney form, these questions can create delays and confusion, which only make dealing with the pressing situation prompting them more difficult.
Additionally, surrogate laws often limit next of kin to certain specific decisions, such as whether to withhold or withdraw life support. Broad powers over health care are not typically included, creating more challenges.
Even states with favorable surrogate laws are powerless if a child becomes incapacitated in a different state. If that occurs, you and your college student will be subject to the specific laws in the state where your child is injured. Powers of attorney clarify who gets information and makes decisions, regardless of where a child is located when an emergency occurs.
That’s why every adult should have a durable power of attorney for health care and a POA for financial decisions, because these forms spell out clearly who is authorized to handle medical and financial decisions in the event of an emergency.
Without these forms, a state may appoint a guardian or conservator for you. That’s just one of the reasons you need a POA. Power of attorney forms eliminate this concern.
#2: Finance POA – What it is and why your student needs one.
By the time your child goes to college, banks and insurance companies will no longer communicate with you about their account or financial matters.
There may come a time when your child finds himself or herself in a situation that they are ill-equipped to handle.
It is easy to fall into credit card debt in college and common for college students to need help from parents to make the right financial moves to put themselves back on solid ground. Without a finance power of attorney in place, parents are pretty much powerless to help their children or advocate for their best interests.
Every adult child should have a durable power of attorney for financial matters because these forms designate who is authorized to handle financial decisions in an emergency or when a child gets in over their head. That’s also true for one more important legal document you need to get in place before your student heads off to college – a HIPAA release form.
#3: HIPAA Release Form – why the one at your doc’s office isn’t enough.
You have probably filled out many HIPAA forms at various doctors’ offices. Those forms usually provide release of health information for that office or hospital system only. They provide parents no rights to a child’s personal health information anywhere else.
So, even if you have release forms on file for your child’s doctors and healthcare systems where you live, if your child is going away for school, or even just leaving the family doctor to find one of their own, you’ll need a new HIPAA release form if you as the parent are to have any ability to be involved in your child’s healthcare decisions or medical care.
Additionally, they provide no help if a child becomes incapacitated and cannot sign a HIPAA release at the time they need care. Both a healthcare power of attorney form and universal HIPAA release should be prepared ahead of time.
The HIPAA release form Mama Bear offers through our Young Adult POA package is designed to legally cover all health care providers in every state and will allow your child’s health care providers, whether on campus or off, to share his or her medical information with you.
Should a need arise for it, you will be thankful to have this authority squared away ahead of time.
Is this really something I should do for my college student?
Creating a young adult POA isn’t a sign of being an over-involved parent. It’s about empowering your child to begin thinking about estate planning and taking a proactive, responsible step to prepare for crises before they occur.
Putting a POA in place now takes the catastrophe of becoming incapacitated without the power to name someone you trust to make life and death decisions for you off the table.
There’s much more to learn about POAs. We’ve addressed common questions, such as who to name as an agent, who must sign a POA to make it valid, and how to select your home state, elsewhere. If you’re worried about being a helicopter parent by putting one in place, it’s worth thinking through.
Get Your POA Package Now
Creating a healthcare POA, finance POA and HIPAA release form doesn’t take long or cost much. You can do all three for just $79 in 10 minutes from the comfort of your couch. We give you six months to make changes to your forms for free.
Mama Bear Legal Forms provides law firm quality, state-specific documents that are easy to create, simple to download and incredibly affordable.
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