Fratello Law

3 Legal Documents You Need When Your Child Goes to College

College Move In Day is upon us! It’s an exciting time for incoming freshmen – and quite possibly a tear-filled time for parents as they watch their babies ‘leave the nest’. For those parents of new or soon-to-be 18-year-olds who are entering their first year of college, you’ll have more to prepare for besides loading up the car and helping to organize a shared dorm room.

While parents and children alike navigate the transition to adulthood in terms of separation, they might not be thinking about their child’s newfound status as an adult in the eyes of the law. Many parents are surprised to learn that once their child turns 18, they no longer have the legal right to inquire about their medical, educational, or financial status. This change will likely seem surreal after years of being responsible for every aspect of your child’s life, but it also complicates matters if your child runs into difficult or emergency situations while away at school.

Luckily, there is an easy solution that will put parents and young adults alike at ease. There are three legal documents that an experienced estate planning attorney can help you with once your child turns 18 that will eliminate the stress of a potentially upsetting situation: a Health Care Proxy, a HIPAA Release, and a durable Power of Attorney.

A Health Care Proxy allows you the legal ability to communicate with medical professionals on behalf of your child if they are unable to do so. It is important to note that there are state-specific versions of this document so talk to your attorney to understand if you need more than one Health Care Proxy if your child is attending college out of state.

Under HIPAA rules, once your child turns 18, you can no longer access their health records without written consent. HIPAA laws prevent you from even getting medical updates if your child cannot communicate their wishes to have you involved. A HIPAA Release allows you to have access to your child’s medical records and to receive medical updates after they turn 18.

While a HIPAA Release and a Health Care Proxy seem similar, an important difference to note is that a HIPAA Release simply allows you to get information about your child’s medical status and records while a Health Care Proxy enables you to make decisions on behalf of your child if they’re unable to do so. So be sure you set up both.

With Power of Attorney, you can access your child’s financial resources and sign legal documents for them. This document allows you to act on behalf of your child if you needed to access their bank or credit card accounts to resolve bills or other financial situations for them. We recommend establishing a durable Power of Attorney since it is broad enough to handle most situations, is effective immediately, and persists even if the protected party becomes incapacitated, while a limited Power of Attorney would only give the authority to act for limited purposes.

How To Get Started

Although there are now some online resources available to set up these documents, working with the experienced attorneys at Fratello Law will ensure that you have sufficiently covered the individual legal needs of your family. We would be happy to meet with you and your child to explain the importance of signing these documents once they have turned 18. Happy Move In Day!