If you’re getting ready to send your first child off to college, you are both in for some new experiences. With a little preparation, you can make this ride a lot smoother – especially where it counts – where your child’s health and safety are concerned.
When your child turns 18 (the age of majority in most states, including Pennsylvania), she becomes an adult in the eyes of the law, the doctor’s office and the college you help pay for. This means that those professionals are no longer allowed to disclose information to you about medical or financial (or grades) details without your child’s permission.
Imagine you get a call from your son’s best friend telling you that he just took your son over to the ER (true story!). Your son’s friend may tell you as much as he can, but the medical staff there will not speak with you without express permission from your child.
Face it – when your child is one hundred miles away in the school medical center, you want to be able to get some answers. Don’t learn about these important forms the hard way – in the middle of a crisis when every moment counts and emotions are high. Take some time now to have some smart conversations and plan out how you and your child can be a team during her years at college.
Here are 4 legal documents you should discuss with your child before school starts.
HIPAA forms are the most basic level of permission you’ll need to speak with a medical professional who is working with or helping your child. Now that your son is an adult, he needs to give permission to health professionals to share his protected health information with you. Yes, even if you’re paying the bills.
This is an easy form – usually one page that does not require notarization. Be aware that each state may have different requirements for its own form, so be sure to complete one prepared for your own state and the state where your child will be going to school.
And it’s not always just who you think of as “health care providers.” We ran into this with our health insurance company when I was trying to follow-up on some wayward bills from a doctor’s visit my son had. No one at the insurance company would discuss the bills with me until they had his permission – even though he was on my insurance.
Medical Power of Attorney
A little more potent than a HIPAA form, a medical POA, or a health care proxy, is a legal document that assigns you or someone else the right to make medical decisions for your child if she becomes incapacitated. You will have the right to talk with doctors, approve tests and consult medical records.
Again, each state has different laws governing medical POAs, and therefore, different legal forms and requirements on notarization or witnessing.
Durable Power Of Attorney
A Durable POA is an additional step you might consider, giving you or other trusted individual the ability to take care of most other business on behalf of your child. Be warned, this is pretty serious, allowing you to sign tax returns, access bank accounts, and pay bills. Not only can this be important if your daughter becomes incapacitated, but, it can be very helpful if your child is studying abroad or attending school significantly far away.
Again, Durable POA forms vary by state so be sure to be in compliance with your home state and school state.
You can get legal assistance for these first three forms – and you should consult a professional as some of them have serious implications that you and your child should be aware of. Be forewarned that you may find that some of the forms may be combined or called something slightly different.
In order to discuss your daughter’s tuition bill or grades with officials at her school, she will need to give you permission through a Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) form. These are generally easy to fill out and most schools provide them digitally to students through their internal web portal, your child will just need to find it! The nice part about this one is that your child can easily complete this herself and it can even be done well in advance of that first day of orientation.
Don’t Waste This Hard Work
Once the forms are completed, be sure that you have them when you need them by scanning them and saving them on your phone and computer.
If it’s time to get your portfolio on-track for financial success, schedule a call with me to start the discussion.