Have a kid in college? You need these legal documents in place

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College is a time of great change for both parents and their kids.

Kids are dealing with being on their own for the first time and parents may be dealing with empty nest syndrome — aka being on their own for the first time in a long while now that the kids are off to school!

Because we’re so intimately involved with raising our children, it’s tempting to see them as just that — children. But in the eyes of the law, the apron strings get cut the minute they turn 18.

Once they cross that threshold into adulthood, they are no longer under your agency when it comes to matters both big and small, particularly issues related to emergency health care.

That’s why an open understanding with your child is key. You’ve got to communicate to them why you and they need to sign certain key documents together…

RELATED: 9 ways to pay for college without student loans

Make sure you and your college student fill out these forms

A recent article in the National Law Review explained there are three forms that parents and college students need to fill out.

Don’t worry if your student is already on campus and you haven’t filled these out yet. Just put it on your to-do list and get it done as soon as you can.

Keep in mind that all of these forms should be updated each year, and that you’ll need one form in your state of residence and a separate one in your child’s state of residence if they’re attending an out-of-state school.

HIPAA form 

Ever tried to get an update about a loved one in the hospital over the phone when there’s been a sudden onset of a medical issue?

If so, you know it can be difficult, if not impossible, to get the info you need if you’re not authorized. That’s because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

What you need to cut through the red tape is a HIPPA form. This document lets a patient (your college student) designate certain family members, friends and others that they want to be apprised of their medical info during treatment.

Obviously, your student should fill this out before they need it during a medical emergency.

The HIPPA form becomes extremely important if your child is living away at school and (God forbid) gets involved in an accident, because you’re not getting any info over the phone even though you’re their parent — unless you fill out this form.

For a list of HIPAA forms by state, click here.

Medical power of attorney

A healthcare power of attorney is a legal document that names you as the parent a “medical agent” for your college student.

What this means is that if your child becomes medically incapacitated in some way, you have the ability to make informed medical decisions on their behalf. This document can name you as the sole point of contact and decision-maker as you decide the best course of action with the doctors.

The reality is that if you don’t have a healthcare power of attorney in place, the doctors will be the ones who make the decisions about care.

“While this is not always a bad thing, a physician’s primary duty is to keep the patient alive,” the National Law Review notes. “So, a healthcare provider might not pursue a risky or experimental course of treatment at the risk of exposure to liability.”

For a list of medical power of attorney forms by state, click here.

General durable power of attorney

A medical power of attorney form is strictly for health care choices should you son or daughter become incapacitated. A general durable power of attorney, however, covers financial decisions.

This document allows you (in this case, your college student) to give authority to another person (the parents) to make financial/legal decisions and to make financial transactions on your behalf.

Those transactions can include, but are not limited to, managing bank accounts, paying bills, filing taxes, applying for government benefits and breaking a lease.

You can read more about the durable power of attorney document here on Clark.com.

For a list of durable power of attorney forms by state, click here.

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Theo Thimou About the author:
Theo has co-written several books with Clark Howard, including the New York Times #1 bestseller Living Large in Lean Times. As a single widowed parent of two young children, he strives to bring unique savings tips to men and women like him who must face life without their spouses. He can be reached at [email protected]
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