What Should be at the Top of Your College Packing List?

We are pleased to share this month’s INSIGHT authored by Whitney Maxson. Whitney, an attorney with Katz Teller in Cincinnati, Ohio, shares with us some of the legal documents that are important to have in place as parents send their ‘adult’ children off to college.

2015 08 clip artThe amount of time and money spent getting your child ready for college can be mind-boggling. Do we have the right size sheets, backpack, laundry bag, shower caddy, etc.? The list is endless (as are the hours you will spend at Target). However, for all the limitless hours spent shopping and planning, very few people consider the legal needs of their now adult son or daughter. It may surprise you to learn that the local hospital, urgent care and on-campus treatment centers won’t necessarily communicate with you regarding your child’s condition and treatment. If your child is unable to communicate with his or her treating physician and authorize them to speak with you, you may find yourself very frustrated with the lack of cooperation and limited information shared.

You lose the legal authority to make decisions for your child when they turn 18. While they may still seem like a baby to you, in the eyes of the law, they are an adult. This means that they are entitled to privacy with respect to their medical information and absent a delegation of authority, you may not act on their behalf with respect to their health care or financial affairs if they become incapacitated.

Fortunately, some simple solutions exist. The following documents may be used to grant you the authority to act on your child’s behalf and continue to assist him or her with medical and financial decisions:

Health Care Power of Attorney

This document allows you to act on behalf of your adult child with respect to his or her health care decisions in the event that they cannot make such decisions for themselves. There may be provisions in the document that allow your child to indicate his or her intentions with respect to end of life decisions and anatomical donations. The document will also include a HIPAA release, to allow you access to his or her medical records should the Health Care Power of Attorney become operative.

HIPAA Authorization Form

This form allows the named representative to access your adult child’s health records and speak to your child’s doctors about his or her health. The Health Care Power of Attorney described above 2015 08 Georgetownmay contain HIPAA provisions but will only permit access in the event your child is incapacitated.

If your child is still capable of making his or her own decisions, the Health Care Power of Attorney is not sufficient to grant you access. You will want to speak with your child about whether or not they are comfortable with you having access to their medical records even when they are not under a disability.

Durable Financial Power of Attorney

This document allows you to act on your adult child’s behalf with respect to legal and financial matters. It is not necessary that your child be incapacitated for this document to be effective. It is drafted so as to become effective immediately upon signing. In this way, your child can continue to act on his or her own behalf and should they become disabled or otherwise need your help (such as the case may be if they are traveling or if they are simply overwhelmed with their new responsibilities), you can quickly come to their rescue. Some examples of actions you may take on their behalf include paying bills, applying for loans, transactions involving their vehicle, etc.

FERPA Release

This form allows the named representative to speak with the school regarding the student’s performance, including records, grades, and attendance. Your child’s school should be able to provide you with their specific form upon request. It is important to note that all of the aforementioned documents may be revoked by your adult child at any time so long as the child has the mental capacity to do so. Please discuss these issues with your adult child before he or she leaves for college this fall or otherwise upon your child turning 18. While this topic is not nearly as exciting as meeting that new roommate or getting that new laptop, it is necessary to support and protect your child during these early adult years.

Whitney B. Maxson Esq., Katz Teller Whitney MaxsonIn her estate and wealth planning practice, Whitney interacts with clients of all ages, from young professionals looking to establish an estate plan to clients whose planning is largely in place, but who are interested in additional strategies to transfer wealth while minimizing unfavorable tax consequences. In her tax practice, Whitney advises businesses, non-profits, families and individuals on federal, state and local tax issues.Whitney can be reached by email at [email protected]
Important Note: These materials are provided for informational purposes only.  Please do not assume that any information contained in this Insight serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Madison.