If you have a child getting ready for college, the transition can be stressful.
Your college-bound student may have been a high school math wizard, but don’t assume that they know how to manage personal finances. Many students have never had to write out a check and do not understand the mechanics of basic banking. Sit down with your child and prepare a simple budget.
You should consider having your child prepare Durable General Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy documents.
From a practical perspective, you may be paying your child’s tuition and housing expenses, as well as covering him/her/them as a dependent on your health insurance; however, in the eyes of the law, a child is a legal adult at the age of 18 years and is entitled to privacy protections for financial and health care matters.
Under federal privacy rules (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act known as “HIPPA”) medical providers such as doctors, nurses and hospital staff cannot speak with you regarding an adult patient’s medical condition without the patient’s consent. In other words, if your child gets sick and requires medical care, medical information cannot be disclosed to you (even though you are the parent), without proper legal authority.
In the event of a medical emergency, parents may want to assure that they have legal authority to get information from their child’s medical providers. A Health Care Proxy is a legal document that allows a patient to designate an agent to make health care decisions in the event they are unable to speak for themselves. Additionally, the document may contain a HIPPA authorization to allow doctors and medical providers to release medical information to the agent.
A Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document that appoints an agent to handle personal financial matters and obtain financial information. There are situations where a Power of Attorney would be useful to collect financial aid or student loan checks payable to the student, handle issues related to financial assistance and bill paying. This may be particularly helpful if your child is studying abroad. If your child runs into issues with his/her/their passport or government agencies in another country, you can have the legal authority to help.
Your child may be hesitant to give up privacy rights and may only want you to have access on a need-to-know basis. A family meeting to discuss the pros and cons may be helpful. Before your child heads off to college, sit down and create a plan for handling medical emergencies and other unexpected obstacles. It will give both parent and child peace of mind.
If you have any questions about the above material, or wish to speak to an attorney, please contact Pfalzgraf Beinhauer Grear Harris Schuller LLP at (716) 204-1055.
Pfalzgraf Beinhauer Grear Harris Schuller LLP is located at 455 Cayuga Road, Suite 600, Buffalo, New York 14225.