As we get closer to the end of August, many college students are returning back to school and leaving home again for the school year. Parents may be concerned about their young adult’s safety and welfare as they go out into the world and make their way. Since these children are legally adults, the parents have lost many rights, including the right to be involved in financial and medical decisions for their child. But what happens if tragedy strikes? If your child goes to school in another state or across the country, what happens if they are in a car accident and temporarily cannot make decisions. If you call the hospital, are the medical professionals going to give you any information about your child? What if there are medical decisions to make and your child is unconscious or in a coma? How are your child’s bills going to be paid while they are incapacitated? There are simple answers to these questions that can give peace of mind to both the parents and adult child.
There are three legal documents that are essential for a college student to have in place. The first document is a HIPAA Authorization. This is a document where the child grants access to the parents to their medical information. If the child has this document signed and on file with their doctor, medical professionals can discuss the child’s medical condition with the parents. If the child is unable to communicate due to a medical emergency, the parents can be updated on the status of their child’s medical condition and are not left in the dark.
The second document that is essential to have it the Patient Advocate Designation or Medical Power of Attorney. This document allows the adult child to pick a patient advocate, i.e. the parents, to make medical decisions in the event they are unable to make their own decisions. If surgery is necessary or other treatment decisions need consent before they can happen, the patient advocate can discuss the medical situation and make informed decisions for their child.
The final document is a Power of Attorney. The Power of Attorney allows the adult child to nominate an agent to handle their legal and financial affairs in the event they are unable to. Perhaps the child is in the hospital and cannot get out to do their banking or file their tax returns. The agent can pay the child’s rent and other bills so that they are not evicted if they happen to be hospitalized for an extended period of time.
These essential documents can help ease the minds of both parents and college students heading off to college this fall. Make sure everyone is protected in the event the unthinkable happens by planning ahead.