Legal Documents: The Item Missing from Your College Packing List


Sending a child off to college can be both an exciting start of a new adventure and a stressful process for parents. While preparation normally includes numerous shopping trips for dorm room essentials, it is wise to also consider having legal documents in place to ensure that your college student is prepared when it comes to their health and finances.

Whether your child will be spending the next four years in-state or across the country, in the eyes of the law, they are considered an independent adult at the age of 18. This means that in most cases, legally, parents are no longer entitled to make decisions on behalf of their child. In the case of an emergency while their child is away at school, parents may face difficulties such as:

  • Obtaining access to their child's student records
  • Making important medical decisions for their child, if needed
  • Gaining access to their son or daughter's medical information

Having your college-bound child sign the following documents can provide you and your family with a sense of reassurance as you navigate the transition into collegiate parenting:

HIPAA Release Form
This document is a release used to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act known as “HIPAA,” which limits the disclosure of medical information. When your child signs this document, it allows individuals listed as “authorized persons” access to medical information to assist them with their care and/or benefits.

Should your child ever find themselves hospitalized while away at school, this document would allow you to speak with their doctors regarding medication and treatment options.

Power of Attorney for Health Care
By executing a Power of Attorney for Health Care, your child authorizes another person as their agent to make medical and health care decisions on his or her behalf in the event that they are not able to make those decisions on their own.

Power of Attorney for Property
By executing a Power of Attorney for Property, your child authorizes another person as their agent to undertake financial transactions on their behalf in the event that they are not able to make those decisions on their own. These include tasks such as accessing bank accounts, managing student loans or making payments for housing.

The time spent at college is filled with new experiences, rich friendships and opportunities. It is also often a young person’s first venture into living apart from the familiarities and safety of home. While you may no longer be equipping them with home cooked meals or a hug after a long day at school, with the proper documents, you can be sure that they are taken care of when they need it most.

Talk to an Estate Planning Attorney today to find out how you can embrace this new chapter in life with peace of mind.

Karen R. Mills, Karrie E. Virgin and Joanie Hogan (Paralegal) have authored this piece.

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