Sending your kids off to college can be an emotional time. They are leaving the metaphorical nest and forging their own path ahead. It marks a change in the parent-child relationship, for sure. A parent’s job, however, is never really done. Even when your kid is off at college, they will still need you and you will still want to be there for them. Most college kids, however, are 18 years old which means they are legal adults and your rights as a parent markedly shift at this point. As they become legal adults, you no longer have the right to make medical decisions on their behalf and access their medical information. This can be problematic, particularly in a medical emergency. That is why it is so important for you to put the necessary legal tools in place to protect your college kid before the need to use them actually arises.
Time to Get a Power of Attorney for your College Kid
When your children are minors, you, as their parent or guardian, have the right to make medical decisions on their behalf. This is an implicit right you have. When your child reaches the legal age of majority, 18, you no longer have such authority. As such, if a situation were to arise such as one where your college-age child needed medical care and was incapacitated, you would not be able to make medical decisions for them unless you had the proper legal documents in place, such as a medical power of attorney.
With a power of attorney, the principal of the power of attorney can empower an agent to act on their behalf. With a medical power of attorney, the principal empowers the agent to make medical decisions on their behalf should they be incapacitated and unable to communicate such decisions for themselves. Every adult should have a medical power of attorney in place so that they know a trusted individual will take on the responsibility of making medical decisions for them in the event that they are incapacitated.
Without a power of attorney in place, doctors may have to make emergency medical decisions quickly and without your input as a parent. Furthermore, if your young adult child is rendered incapacitated for an extended period of time, you will need to petition a court to establish a guardianship so that you are empowered to make medical decisions on your child’s behalf. Guardianship proceedings cannot just be long and involved, but they can also be quite expensive. A medical power of attorney is a great way to avoid the need for this.
You will also want to consider executing a HIPAA form for your college kid once they turn 18. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) put privacy restrictions in place to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing a person’s medical information. Without HIPAA authorization, you will likely find it difficult, if not impossible, to get medical information about your child who is away at college. You may not be able to find out where they are being treated or what they are being treated for, even in the event of an emergency medical situation. Without HIPAA authorization, it is not likely to matter that you are a patient’s parent if that patient is 18 or older.
Estate Planning Attorneys
For those critical legal tools that help protect ourselves and the ones we love, no matter what life throws our way, reach out to the team at Jones, Gregg, Creehan & Gerace. Contact us today.