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

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Preparing documents for college
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Do you have a student going off to college for the first time or already living away at school?

They’re going to need certain important documents — like a medical power of attorney and a HIPAA release for college students, among others — in place.

These key documents will let you as the parent get info about them in the event of a medical emergency.

Make sure you and your college student fill out these forms

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

For each of the forms below, parents should keep the original and the student should have copies. It may be a good idea for a roommate or fellow student to know where the copies are. In addition, the family may want to see if a copy can be filed at the school with student medical records.

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.

Table of contents

  1. HIPAA form
  2. Medical power of attorney
  3. General durable power of attorney

1. 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 HIPAA form. This document lets a patient (your college student) designate certain family members, friends and others who can be updated about their medical info during treatment.

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

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

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The HIPAA release form for college students is the same as the form for everyone else. For a list of HIPAA forms by state, click here.

2. Medical power of attorney

A healthcare power of attorney is a legal document naming you the parent a “medical agent” for your college student. If your child becomes medically incapacitated, you can make informed medical decisions on their behalf.

This document can name you as the sole point of contact and decision-maker. That will allow you to decide the best course of action with the doctors.

What happens 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.

3. General durable power of attorney

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

This document allows a college student to give authority to another person (the parents) to make financial/legal decisions. It also allows the parents to make the following financial transactions on the student’s behalf:

  • Managing bank accounts
  • Paying bills
  • Filing taxes
  • Applying for government benefits
  • 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.

Final thought

College is a time of great change for both parents and their kids. Young adults are dealing with being on their own for the first time. And parents may be dealing with empty nest syndrome.

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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. That applies to matters both big and small, particularly issues related to emergency health care.

So 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 a health care proxy for college students, a HIPAA release for college students and more.

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