College children and necessary legal documents

Many of the folks we work with at PDS Planning have children that go away to college each fall.  We spend a lot of time preparing for the financial impact this will have, but one of the things many people don’t think about are the legal documents necessary to have in place before they start.  There are a few legal documents we would encourage our clients to have in place as they make this transition.  These documents will allow the parent to get information and make decisions in the event of an emergency.

Let’s review these and give an explanation of why each are important:

HIPAA form

The HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) form is a document that allows your college student to designate who can be updated and receive medical info during treatment in the event of an accident.  Hospitals will not share this information with anyone who is not authorized via a HIPAA form.  This form should be completed prior to leaving for school in case of an accident.  If your child is going to an out-of-state school, they should fill one out for both their state of domicile and also the state where they go to school.  For a state-by-state listing of HIPAA forms, click this LINK.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

This is a document that will allow you as the parent to make medical decisions in the event your child becomes medically incapacitated.  As their “medical agent”, you can become the sole decision maker for medical directives for your child.  If this document is not in place, the decisions made are in the hands of the doctors.  Some may question why you would want to take the medical decisions out of the hands of the physician.  One thing to keep in mind is that doctors may not want to pursue more risky or experimental treatments due to liability reasons.  As your child’s medical agent, you will be able to work with their doctor and come up with the best solution.

General Durable Power of Attorney

The general power of attorney document acts similar to the healthcare document but also covers financial decisions.  This document will allow your child to give you authority to make financial and legal decisions.  In addition, the person designated in this document can execute financial transactions on the student’s behalf.  In the event your child becomes incapacitated, you may do such things as file their taxes, pay their bills and manage their bank accounts.

Down the road there will be other legal documents to consider such as wills and trusts.  For college students just heading off to school though, having these three documents in place will allow you as their parent(s) to have the peace of mind that you will be able to get information and make decisions in the event of an emergency.


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