Home for Spring Break! Our children fly back to their nests and our families are all together under one roof for a brief and wonderful time. So much fun and laundry!

Spring breaks are also a time our children go away with their friends. We sit home waiting for their safe return. The last thing on your mind is having legal documents prepared. However, if you haven’t already, here’s one more thing you should add to your children’s pre trip itinerary;  Have your now “adult” child sign a Durable Power of Attorney, a Health Care Proxy and HIPPA directives.

Most of us never think that such estate planning directives are essential for younger people, but without them, in most states, parents don’t have the authority to make health care decisions, obtain medical information or manage money for their kids once they turn 18, despite the fact that they may be paying the tuition, still have those kids on their health insurance plans and claim them as dependents on their tax returns. That means if a young adult is in an accident and becomes disabled, even temporarily, a parent might need court approval to act on his or her behalf.

It doesn’t take something drastic for parents to need to act on a child’s behalf. A friend of mine realized that a few years ago when her daughter, then 18, was a freshman at an out of state college. Her daughter developed a severe flu bug that landed her in the college infirmary. She rushed to visit her there, and the doctors refused to discuss her daughter’s condition without her consent. citing privacy concerns.

Fortunately, my friend’s daughter quickly recovered. But this added stress to an already concerning situation could have been avoided if she had signed a Health Care Proxy and a HIPPA authorization before she went off to college. These documents authorize someone to make medical decisions on your behalf as well as giving authorization to your agent to review your medical records. Truly, every adult, from age 18 to 118,  regardless of condition of health, should have these directives in place. You should also make sure to give the directives to the school to keep on file.

So, what are these documents? Here is a brief overview.

HIPAA Authorization

If you have ever tried to get an update about a loved one in the hospital over the phone when there’s been a sudden onset of a medical issue, you know it can be difficult, if not impossible, to get the info you need if you’re not authorized. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is the law that prevents you from getting that information and its purpose is to protect a patient’s right to privacy. What you need in place for that information to be released to you, is a HIPPA Authorization. In this document, a person designates certain family members and/or friends that they wish to be apprised of their medical information and status during treatment. Your child should have this in place before they need it in a medical emergency.

The HIPPA Authorization becomes extremely important if your child is living away at school and gets involved in an accident, because you will not be provided any information over the phone even if you are a parent unless this document is in place.

Health Care Proxy

A Health Care Proxy is a legal document whereby your child can appoint you as his or her agent to make medical decisions and give medical authorization. What this means is that if your child becomes incapacitated in some way, you have the ability to make informed medical decisions on their behalf. 

Power Of Attorney

Where a Health Care Proxy gives authority for making medical decisions should your child become incapacitated, a Power of Attorney covers financial decisions. This document will allow your child to give you the authority to make financial decisions and to make financial transactions on their behalf. Those transactions can include, managing tuition payments or getting tuition reimbursed, managing bank accounts, paying bills, filing taxes, applying for government benefits or even breaking a lease if your child is living off campus. It also does not require that your child be incapacitated to assist them in handling their finances. It could simply be that your child is in the middle of exams or is having an issue with the bursars office and needs your assistance.

So now you ask, how do I get these directives in place? Is it time consuming? Difficult? Costly? Well, it’s easy, not time consuming or costly. Contact our office and we’ll be happy to assist you in assessing your needs and getting everything in place for your children and don’t forget yourself as well!