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Legal Preparation for Leaving the Nest

As spring winds down and summer sets in, many parents and students look forward to graduation day. After the celebrations, parents get ready to send their children, many of whom have never been away from home, off to college.

During such an exciting time, parents and students will be busy with all of the planning, preparation, and packing.  In the midst of this excitement, it might be easy to overlook some very important documents that will make life away from home much smoother for everyone. That said, these documents should not be ignored as this is a perfect time to discuss certain tools that will enable Mom and Dad to continue to help their children during their time away from home.

There are a few important things you should add to your to-do list as they get ready to head off to college.  Preparing these documents will ensure that loose ends are tied up and that any potential issues in the future are properly planned for. 

1. Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

Every year, roughly a quarter of a million young adults between the ages of 18-25 wind up in the hospital, according to a Forbes.com article. From alcohol poisoning and nonlethal accidents to unexpected illnesses, it’s important to hope for the best but also prepare for the worst. Once a child reaches the age of 18, a parent’s decision-making role is significantly diminished, especially in regards to making health care decisions. 

Should their child get in a car accident, or fall ill and not be capable of making his or her own medical decisions, parents may not be able to make medical decisions on their child’s behalf unless they have a durable power of attorney naming them as health care agents for their child. If you want to ensure that you can continue to make health care decisions for your child, working with your child to create a health care power of attorney should be at the top of your to-do list. 

2. HIPAA Authorization

When children turn 18, parents no longer have a right to access their child’s protected health information.  In order to ensure that parents have access to this information to make informed medical decisions, it’s important to have a child execute a HIPAA authorization form along with a health care power of attorney. Without it, parents would be unable to communicate with health care professionals and insurance companies, as well as access their child’s health records and previous treatment information.

3. Durable Power of Attorney (Legal and Financial)

Similar to a health care power of attorney, a financial power of attorney gives parents the ability to make financial decisions on their child’s behalf, should they be unable to do so themselves. Should the child become disabled for any reason, then parents would still be able to pay their child’s rent, credit card bills, utilities, access bank accounts and financial records, as well as manage any loans they may have.

4. FERPA Release

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is designed to protect a college student’s privacy, but it can also leave parents locked out in an emergency. A properly worded release can allow parents to talk to school officials and release pertinent educational records and information should they need it.

5. Consent and Authorization to Access Digital Assets

Michigan allows individuals to give consent to and authorize people to access your digital assets, like social media accounts, email, etc.  While some children might be wary of this, it can be helpful to assist parents in gathering information regarding a child’s assets.  More often, bills, account statements, credit card bills, and other important communications come through emails.  Having access to these accounts can assist parents in properly managing the child’s affairs if they cannot do it themselves.

6. Last Will and Testament

While many parents don’t want to think about this topic, especially as their child leaves home, it’s an important one to add to the list. A will allows parents to honor their child’s wishes on what should be done with their social media accounts, bank accounts, and personal assets. It also allows the child to specify any funeral arrangements they would like to have.

The hope is that none of these documents are necessary when your child heads off to college.  However, making sure you have them in place can give you peace of mind and one less thing to worry about as they start the next chapter of their lives.

If you are interested in a Student Legal Documents Package, contact a Foster Swift estate planning attorney to prepare one for the student in your life.

Categories: Digital Assets, Elder Law, Estate Planning, HIPAA, Powers of Attorney


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