When your child leaves for college, he is stepping into a world full of new responsibilities and endless possibilities. As he packs for school, he loads up his computer, textbooks, backpack and supplies. He hugs you, tells you he loves you and then drives away. As a parent, you stand there and wonder; "will he be safe? Have I done all I could? Is he prepared?"
There is one important step that many parents forget before letting their adult children leave the home - basic legal documents! Many parents don't realize that the moment your child turns 18, you no longer have a right to their information. This becomes a serious issue if your child is involved in an accident or becomes injured or ill. If your child is hospitalized and you do not have a current HIPAA form that permits you to receive information regarding your child, the hospital or medical facility is not authorized to give you any information. Without that designation they cannot contact you to inform you of your child's admittance, nor can they release any information about their care or status.
If something should happen to your child that causes them to be incapacitated temporarily or permanently, you will need to act on their behalf to make sure that important decisions are being made, financial affairs are appropriately handled and that the proper medical care is being given. In order to handle your child's affairs in such a situation, you must have a Health Care Power of Attorney and a Property Power of Attorney which designate you in this role.
We also recommend that everyone over 18 years of age have a living will. This important document allows an individual to make their wishes known in case of a terminal condition, irreversible coma or a vegetative state, and authorizes a trusted individual to ensure these wishes are met.
To avoid these situations and ensure your adult child has the protections he needs, we recommend having basic legal documents in place as early as possible. In fact, there are four specific documents that you should not hesitate to put in place: HIPAA Medical Release Form, Living Will, Health Care Power of Attorney and Property Power of Attorney.
With these documents, your child will be able to make their wishes known and have them carried out by a trusted friend or family member in a time of need. You can feel peace knowing that you will be able to help ensure your child's well being if an accident or illness should occur.
We wish the best to all those leaving home for the responsibilities of adult life and the exciting learning environment that college provides.