It has been some time now that children all over the US are back in school. This is exciting for kids and a tear-filled, tension time for parents, as their babies become older. For parents with kids entering the first year of college, this is impactful as striking a balance between personal space and boundaries, is difficult. Parents receive advice ranging from ‘leaving them alone’ to ‘message them as you would before they left home.’ Finding the right balance is important for each child/parent relationship, and, this transition causes much emotional upheaval. While parents and children navigate the separation and logistics of going away to college, their child’s status as an adult in the eyes of the law, escapes notice.
Once your child is 18, you have no legal right to inquire about their educational, medical, or financial status. This is bewildering after caring for a child for so long. While inconvenient, it complicates matters if your child encounters difficulties while at school or if still at home. A dramatic example is if your child was involved in an accident and needed medical guidance, but the medical team cannot communicate vital information to you. You can work with an attorney, while most documents are free online, from sources like LegalZoom or Nolo.
This gives you the legal ability to communicate with medical professionals on your child’s behalf if they are unable to do so. You might need more healthcare proxies if your child attends college, out of state, as state-specific document versions exist. A healthcare proxy for the child ensures someone they know and trust to make decisions on serious medical issues. As a parent, you need to actively participate in your child’s healthcare issues if a serious situation occurs.
Under HIPAA rules after your child is 18, you cannot access their health records without specific written consent as HIPAA laws stop you from getting medical updates and records if your ward is unable to communicate their wishes for your involvement. A HIPAA release allows you to access your child’s medical records and receive medical updates after 18. This form is helpful if your child experiences an on-going /sudden medical issue. You need a HIPAA release and a healthcare proxy as a HIPAA release only allows you information about your child’s medical status and records. A healthcare proxy empowers you to make decisions on behalf of your child when unable to do so.
Durable Power Of Attorney
With a legal power of attorney, you can access your child’s financial resources and sign legal documents for them. If you resolve bills or other financial situations, you may access their bank/ credit card accounts. You can act on your child’s behalf if they are elsewhere and need help with financial matters, especially in their 20s and working full time when their financial lives become complex. A durable power of attorney is preferred for your child, which is broad enough to handle most potential situations and effective immediately, even if the child becomes incapacitated. A limited power of attorney would provide authority for limited purposes while a general power of attorney would be ineffective if incapacitated but a springing power of attorney is only effective in case of incapacity.
Other legal documents necessary are a FERPA or Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act release, Financial Records Access, Living Will, and a Medical Power of Attorney. Do remember that most legal documents have to be signed, need witnesses and had to be notarized to be held valid.