4 Documents You Must Have Ready Before Your Child Goes Off To College

Young woman moving into college dorm

If you have a child heading off to college, it can feel like there are a million things you need to get before they leave; from dorm room essentials, to textbooks, to a stash of their favorite snacks. But here are some things you need to consider as a parent preparing for their adult child to leave the nest for college that don’t appear on most school shopping lists — and are more important than string lights or a bag of sour gummy worms.

Back to School Document Checklist

Your child will be more independent at college than they ever have been before, but you want to rest assured that if they ever need anything, you can and will be there for them. To make sure you can do so, these are four documents that every parent needs to have prepared for their adult child to be ready to leave for college:

•  Health Care Power of Attorney
•  Financial Power of Attorney
•  HIPAA authorization form
•  FERPA authorization form

Now that your child has turned 18, you may have accepted that they are leaving the nest to go off to college, but you should also recognize the legal implications that come with them being a legal adult. They now have all the rights to privacy as a legal adult, and you are no longer considered their “natural guardian” for legal decisions. Without the above essential planning documents, you may not be able to access your adult child’s medical records or make health care or financial decisions for your adult child if they need your help or are incapacitated while they are away at college.

Health Care Power of Attorney

A Health Care Power of Attorney document determines who can make health care decisions if the person is incapacitated. This guarantees you the ability to care for your adult child and make the necessary medical decisions if something happens to them after they go off to college.

Financial Power of Attorney

A Financial Power of Attorney grants broad powers to the listed agent to handle the person’s property throughout their lifetime, including while they are incapacitated. This is similar to the Health Care Power of Attorney, but for financial decisions rather than medical decisions. This allows you to help your child with financial decisions, such as managing bank accounts, applying for financial aid, or signing tax returns, as they take their first steps into adulthood.

HIPAA Authorization Form

A HIPAA authorization form allows you to have access to your adult child’s medical records. Without such authorization, HIPAA prevents anyone from accessing a person’s health care information at a healthcare facility, including the parents of an adult child.

FERPA Authorization Form

Upon entering college, your adult child’s records at school are private. Your child can allow you access to these records. Your child can choose what records you have access to. Many schools protect medical records under FERPA, and thus can only be accessed with prior authorization. A FERPA authorization form can also grant access to other educational records at the school.

Why is it so important to have these documents?

You are no longer automatically able to assist your child in any way you want now that they are an adult. These documents allow you as the parent to still help and care for them and have access to important information. Without these documents, you may have to get a court order granting you formal guardianship despite being their parent and prior natural guardian.

If you face a situation in which your child needs your help or is incapacitated, the last thing you want is to face legal roadblocks. Have these documents ready, and rest assured that you can help your child in any way that they may need as they step into adulthood (in addition to supplying them with their favorite snacks and a new college sweatshirt).

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Pittsburgh Estates & Trusts Attorneys

Chuck Hadad leads the Estates & Trusts team at The Lynch Law Group. Please contact him at chadad@lynchlaw-group.com or by phone at (724) 776-8000 with any questions or for more information related to powers of attorney or other estate planning matters.

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