If You Have A Child In College, Or Over 18, You Need These Directives In Place.

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

The holidays are also a time of crazy chaos and you’re probably busy with last-minute shopping, wrapping and decorating. 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 holiday to-do list: Have your 18 years or older 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, regardless of age or condition of health should have these directives in place.

Keep in mind that you’ll need these directives in your state of residence and should also have separate ones in your child’s state of residence if they’re attending an out-of-state school. You should also make sure to give these directive to the school to keep on file.

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


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 info and its purpose is to protect a patient’s right to privacy. What you need to get that authorization is a HIPPA form. In this document, a person designates certain family members, friends and others that they want to be apprised of their medical info during treatment. Your child should fill this out before they need it during a medical emergency.

The HIPPA form becomes extremely important if your child is living away at school and (God forbid) gets involved in an accident, because you’re not getting any info over the phone even though you’re their parent — unless you fill out this form.

Health Care Proxy

A healthcare power of attorney is a legal document that appoints you as the parent a medical agent for your child. What this means is that if your child becomes medically incapacitated in some way, you have the ability to make informed medical decisions on their behalf. This document will give you the authorization to decide the best course of action with the doctors. The reality is that if you don’t have a Health Care Proxy in place, the doctors will be the ones who make the decisions about care.

General Durable Power Of Attorney

Where a Health Care Proxy gives authority for making medical decisions should your child become incapacitated, a General Durable Power of Attorney covers financial decisions. This document will allow your child to give you the authority to make financial and legal 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 your personal Estate Planning Attorney or feel free to contact my office and we’ll be happy to assist you in assessing your needs and getting everything in place! Visit www.vzbllc.com.

I wish you all a joyous Holiday Season and a happy, healthy New Year!