In today's world, in the midst of a global pandemic, you may be looking at your paperwork for your business and your life. That's a good idea. When the possibility of severe illness and even death are possible, it's important to revisit your estate plan. But do your college-aged children need to worry? Is it important to have college students powers of attorney and healthcare directives?
What if you have to step in?
This is a commonly overlooked item in estate planning. Most people think about taking care of their children financially but almost never think about if something bad happens to their adult child. Without college students powers of attorney, you may be blocked from assisting your child in their medical, education, and legal issues.
You May Not Have the Rights You Think You Do
Most parents assume they have more rights to their student's information than they really possess. Even though your student is on your health insurance plan and you pay all of his or her medical bills, that does not entitle you to make medical decisions for them in case of an emergency or to get full details of their health crisis or injuries. You are probably not entitled to any information about their medical records—even for such things as a claim dispute. If you pay all of the costs of a child's college expenses, that does not entitle you to see their grades or discuss their education with a counselor. If your child is out of the country or just a long distance away, you probably cannot act on their behalf.
What Documents Should You Have?
Without these documents, you may not step in when your child needs you most. Encourage your college student to get these powers of attorney and other forms before heading off to school.
- Durable Power of Attorney: This will allow your child to authorize you to manage his or her financial affairs should he become mentally or physically unable to do so. You will be authorized to handle tasks such as paying bills, applying for social security or government benefits, and opening and closing accounts.
- Medical Power of Attorney: This allows your child to authorize you to make medical decisions if he or she is incapacitated and unable to do so. An agent acting under a medical power of attorney may see the principal's medical records to make informed medical decisions on his or her behalf.
- HIPAA Release: HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) requires healthcare providers and insurance companies to protect the privacy of patients' healthcare information. Those who violate HIPAA are subject to civil and criminal penalties. This may include jail time. Therefore, providers will be reluctant to share protected health information without authorization.
- FERPA Release: You also might want a FERPA release, which allows you to have access to your child's educational records.
How to Talk About College Students Powers of Attorney
You child is transitioning into adulthood. They may be reluctant to provide what they perceive as continued authority. They are adults and want you to treat them that way. Explain what might happen if they have a medical emergency or need you to help with financial matters. Let them know that college students need powers of attorney and to plan ahead. Also, remind them that they can revoke these documents. Lastly, discuss with them how and why such documents will be used.
Putting these documents in place can be one of the best things you can do for your child. It does not have to be expensive, but it must be done correctly.
Contact us to learn more about setting your college students up with powers of attorney.