College is a time of great change for both parents and their kids. Kids are dealing with being on their own for the first time and parents may be on their own for the first time in a long while now that the kids are off to school.

Because people are so intimately involved with raising their children, it’s tempting to see them as just that—children. But in the eyes of the law, the apron strings get cut the minute they turn 18. Once they cross that threshold into adulthood, they are no longer under your agency when it comes to matters both big and small, particularly issues related to emergency health care. That’s why an open understanding with your child is key. You’ve got to communicate to them why you and they need to sign certain key documents together

There are three forms that parents and college students need to fill out. (Don’t worry if your student is already on campus and you haven’t filled these out yet. Just put it on your to-do list and get it done as soon as you can.)

(1) HIPAA AUTHORIZATION. Ever tried to get an update about a loved one in the hospital over the phone when there’s been a sudden medical issue? If so, you know it can be difficult, if not impossible, to get the info you need if you’re not authorized. That’s because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

What you need to cut through the red tape is a HIPAA Authorization. This document lets a patient (your college student) designate certain family members, friends, and others that they want to be apprised of their medical info during treatment. Obviously, your student should fill this out before they need it during a medical emergency. The HIPAA Authorization becomes extremely important if your child is living away at school and gets involved in an accident or has a medical emergency, because you’re not getting any info over the phone even though you’re their parent—unless you fill out this form.

(2) HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY. A health care power of attorney is a legal document that names you as the parent as an “agent” for your college student. What this means is that if your child becomes medically incapacitated in some way, you have the ability to make informed medical decisions on their behalf. This document can name you as the sole point of contact and decision-maker as you decide the best course of action with the doctors.

(3) DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY. A medical power of attorney is strictly for health care choices should your son or daughter become incapacitated. A general durable power of attorney, however, covers financial decisions. This document allows a person (in this case, your college student) to give authority to another person (the parents) to make financial and legal decisions and to make financial transactions on their behalf. Those transactions can include managing bank accounts, paying bills, filing taxes, applying for government benefits and dealing with a landlord.

If you have questions about preparing legal documents for your adult children who are off to school, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to find out how we can help.