As summer speeds by, many young people are getting ready to head to college. For most parents the prospect of seeing their child head off to school, often far away from home, comes with a mix of pride, excitement, and nervous trepidation. As a mother, and an attorney, I will want my daughter to be fully prepared when that time comes. One of the most important things any parent can do to help prepare their son or daughter for the exciting journey that awaits them is getting a few legal documents in order that will give you the ability to make decisions for them, should they become incapacitated for some reason. As the parent of a minor, you have the legal authority to make medical and financial decisions for them and access their medical information. When your child turns eighteen however, they are legally considered an adult, and you lose those rights. This is of course a part of growing up, and your child’s autonomy is part of their healthy development. In an emergency situation however, that ability to represent your child, and manage their affairs can be of vital importance. There is a solution for this.

The first is to set up an Advanced Healthcare Directive (AHCD) with your college-bound child. An AHCD will give you the power to make medical decisions for your child, and access their medical records should they become incapacitated. These directives can differ between states, and while it is common for doctors and other providers to honor out of state AHCDs, it is important to be mindful and make sure the document you craft is specifically applicable in the state where your adult child will be residing and attending school. This document should also include a HIPAA Authorization, which is the part of the document that will specifically allow you to access your adult child’s medical records. This document can be made apart of your child’s medical records so that in an emergency it will be readily accessible.

The other important document to draft and execute with your child is a Durable Power of Attorney. A DPOA sets you up as your child’s “Attorney-In-Fact”, giving you the ability to act and make decisions on their behalf in financial and legal matters. It is very useful in an emergency situation of incapacity, or simply when all your child’s energy needs to be focused on their studies and they don’t have the time to pay bills or deal with student loan creditors, or even if they are traveling abroad.

Without a properly-executed Advance Healthcare Directive or Durable Power of Attorney, you could be forced to obtain a court-approved conservatorship over your child.

Going off to college is one of the most exciting times in a young person’s life, and if they’ve made it there, you should congratulate yourselves on being good parents and preparing them for all that life has in store. Discussing this with your child before they head off to college will be doing them, and yourself, a great service– just as important as getting books for class, and buying sheets and a comforter for their dorm room.

Please contact us if you have any further questions or are interested in having your child execute these documents.

Happy Planning!