Healthcare Power of Attorney MUST Be on Your College Checklist

Do you have healthcare and financial powers of attorney for your college student?

patient with doctors

If you are one of the many parents making preparations to send a child off to college in the next few weeks, you probably have a list of must-haves and must-dos to diligently check off. Registered for orientation? Check. Laptop? Check. Immunizations? Check. Dorm decor? Check. Healthcare Power of Attorney for your college student? Maybe not.

Why is this an essential document for my college student?

Parents often understand the importance of having a healthcare power of attorney in place for a spouse or aging parents, but have never considered how crucial this document is when it comes to caring for a recent high school graduate or young adult child.

Once your child reaches the age of 18, they are no longer a child, but a legal adult with all of the rights to privacy of a legal adult. This includes the right to medical privacy under HIPPA. Parents who have been scheduling appointments, receiving test results, and making virtually all healthcare decisions for their child for the past 18 years suddenly find themselves no longer privy to receiving that child’s healthcare information. This is true even if your child is still on your medical insurance and even if you are paying the bill.

Typically, this situation comes to light when a child faces a medical issue after going to college or moving away from home for a first job. Parents quickly learn that getting access to their child’s medical information can be challenging, frustrating, and perhaps scary. Simply put, if your young adult child is not able to give permission for the nurse or doctor to release information to you, then that information will not be released.

What does a healthcare power of attorney do?

The easiest way to avoid this situation is with a healthcare power of attorney. In this legal document, your child can appoint you as an agent to make their healthcare decisions if, at any time, they are unable to make those decisions. By appointing you as an agent, the healthcare power of attorney also gives you the right to obtain medical information about your child.

In addition to a healthcare power of attorney, you may also consider discussing the benefits of a financial power of attorney, also called a durable power of attorney, with your child. This document gives you, as the agent, the authority to make financial decisions (manage bank accounts, sign tax returns) on your child’s behalf in the event that they are unable to do so, whether due to incapacity or simply due to circumstances such as traveling abroad. It serves also as a convenient way for you to prudently assist with their finances as they mature through adulthood.

Each state has different laws governing healthcare and financial powers of attorney, along with different forms. It’s a good idea to consult an estate planning attorney for advice in your particular circumstance. Most importantly, it is essential to be prudent and to plan ahead for this situation.

Signing powers of attorney is a must-do on any parent’s college checklist, saving vast amounts of unnecessary stress related to medical attention or assistance in managing finances for your child.

Pittsburgh Estates & Trusts Attorneys

Chuck Hadad leads the Estates & Trusts team at The Lynch Law Group. Please contact him at 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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