College-Bound Kids? Make Sure They (and You) are Ready

In addition to stocking up at the back-to-school sale at Target®, making sure immunizations are up to date, and registering for classes, your college-aged student should make sure he or she has certain legal documents in place before heading off to school. 

Believe it or not, as of your child's18th birthday, he or she graduated from being a "minor" to becoming a "legal adult."  This has legal implications that most people don't realize.  Importantly, your ability to access information about your child will now be limited, even in the event of an accident or illness — even though you've raised that child for the past 18 years!  Without certain legal documents, you could be in the dark and unable to make important medical and financial decisions for your incapacitated child in a timely manner.  As unpleasant as it is to think about, making sure your child has the following basic documents now is better than facing an emergency situation unprepared later:

  • Health Care Power of Attorney.  A health care power of attorney is a document signed by your child that nominates a trusted person, usually a parent, to make health care decisions in the event that your child becomes incapacitated.  Without this document, decisions about your child's medical treatment will be made by the doctor or will involve a court proceeding.
  • HIPAA Authorization.  The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 ("HIPAA") protects an adult's private medical information from being released to third parties without the patient's consent.  Since your child is now a legal adult, a doctor legally cannot, and frequently will not, discuss your child's medical information with you.  A HIPAA authorization waives this protection so that you can discuss your child’s medical situation with the child's doctor in appropriate circumstances.
  • Durable Power of Attorney.  A durable power of attorney naming you as your child's "attorney‑in‑fact" will let you step in and handle your child's financial matters when the child is unable.  You might be paying tuition or handling bills as an authorized party anyway, but the durable power of attorney provides actual legal authority for you to act.

For further information regarding the issues described above, and whether these documents are appropriate in your circumstances, please contact one of the attorneys in our Trusts and Estates Practice Group.

© 2019 Ward and Smith, P.A. For further information regarding the issues described above, please contact Virginia S. Carter.

This article is not intended to give, and should not be relied upon for, legal advice in any particular circumstance or fact situation. No action should be taken in reliance upon the information contained in this article without obtaining the advice of an attorney.

We are your established legal network with offices in Asheville, Greenville, New Bern, Raleigh, and Wilmington, NC.

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