August means back to school, and for many parents means waving their adult children off to college. Preparing to send your adult children off to college means more than buying dorm furnishings and books. Parents should also ensure they have access to all the documents they need in case of emergencies.
Parental obligations typically end when a child reaches the legally recognized age of adulthood, which is 18 years old in most U.S. states. This can be an exciting time accompanied by great privilege for your child, such as the opportunity to vote, own a home or even get married if they choose. However, as your young adult gains more legal rights, you as their parent lose them.
If your child is 18 or older, and especially before they leave home, it is wise to consider how your parental rights may change and if appropriate, the documents you can get signed to retain some of these rights.
Grades and Academic Records:
Even if you pay for your child’s college tuition, that does not grant access to his/her grades or transcripts. The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act applies to all schools that receive funding from the U.S. Department of Education. In order for parents to receive the education records of a college student, the student must authorize the parents to receive the information in writing.
Medical Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, HIPPA Release
You may be accustomed to discussing your child’s health with his/her doctor. However, when your child turns 18, you are no longer considered his/her legal representative. Under the federal Health Information Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA, your 18-year-old’s health records are only between them and his/her health care provider .
If you need access to your child’s medical records, he/she may grant you medical power of attorney or health care proxy, which authorizes you to make health care decisions on his/her behalf, which can be especially important if for some reason he/she is unable to do so.
As a father of two college-bound adults, CWA Partner Dan Wicker knows how important taking the extra step to sign these forms can be.
“I’ve even experienced the frustration myself of trying to obtain medical information on my son while he was in need at his out-of-state college,” Dan said. “I can’t imagine how frantic my wife and I would be had this been an emergency situation. In the consult room with my clients, I also advise that if the child is attending college out of state, to consult an attorney about whether the parents need a healthcare proxy for both the home state and the state where the child is attending college.”
Young adults should have Living Wills too. No one likes to think about it, but accidents do happen.
An Advance Care Directive outlines a person’s wishes about life-extending medical treatment, as well as other intentions, such as organ donations. If you are familiar with the turmoil and family conflict this can cause in the case of aging parents, the situation can be painfully similar should an accident occur with your young adult.
Durable Power of Attorney
Among other things, a Durable Power of Attorney form grants parents the authority to sign documents for their child, which is particularly helpful if students go abroad for a semester. You’re also entitled to handle tasks such as renewing the child’s car registration while they’re at college out-of-state, managing financial accounts held in their name or filing a tax return on their behalf. Durable POA forms vary by state. In some states, the medical POA can be included in the durable POA form.
For teens close to the line between child and independent adult, a few well-laid plans can make all the difference when it comes to an emergency situation. As much as you’ve hoped they would be prepared to take care of themselves, there is comfort in knowing you can step in if needed.