Fall is a memorable time for students beginning or continuing higher education. After a summer of work or fun, it’s time to get back to the pursuit of education and the anticipated independence it brings. Parents may still be paying the tuition and other expenses, but once a child reaches the age of eighteen, that is adulthood. Financial and medical decisions are no longer delegated to the parents. In fact, parents have no right to request medical information from or provide medical information to doctors or insurance providers.
Those over eighteen need planning too, just like anyone else passing one of life’s major milestones. Add entering college to the list of marriage, divorce, birth of a child, death of relative or retirement. Estate planning is not just about what happens to someone’s worldly goods after death. It is equally important to name someone to make decisions on your behalf if you are not able to do so.
The other side of estate planning is planning for incapacity, and it is frankly more important for a college-bound student than planning for the distribution of minimal assets. The college student definitely needs an Advance Medical Directive composed of a Living Will, a Power of Attorney for Health Care and a HIPAA privacy authorization. A power of attorney for healthcare gives the agent broad powers to make health care decisions, including the power to require, consent to, or withdraw treatment for any physical or mental condition, and to admit you or discharge you from any hospital, home, or other institution.
A HIPAA privacy authorization grants permission to health care providers to release your medical information to the agent named in your health care power of attorney and to other specified parties. Though the health care power of attorney also authorizes the release of medical information, this form is specifically drafted to comply with the disclosure requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Finally, a general durable power of attorney names an agent to take care of your financial matters, keeping your best interests in mind, while you are incapacitated. Your agent will have broad powers to handle your affairs, including the power to pledge, sell, or dispose of any of your real or personal property.
Do not be surprised when the worst happens despite it being a remote possibility. Plan ahead and obtain Powers of Attorney for Health Care and Property and medical information release authorizations. Be in control so that your agent can quickly coordinate the medical and financial help you need when you need it most.
Without those documents, parents are not authorized to make medical decisions and deal with healthcare providers and insurance companies. If children expect their parents to be able to take care of their finances, they must delegate that authority in a Power of Attorney.