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Does your college checklist include a Healthcare Power of Attorney and Financial Power of Attorney?

As you and your child make preparations for them to go off to college in the next few weeks, do you have a list of must-haves and must-do's that not only includes registering for orientation, purchasing a laptop, and dorm room stuff, but also a Healthcare Power of Attorney and Financial Power of Attorney?

Most parents have not considered how critical these documents are when it comes to caring for your recent high-school graduate or young-adult child.  These documents are often thought of as important for aging parents or a spouse.

Once your "child" reaches the age of 18, he or she is no longer a child in the eyes of the law.  Your child is a legal adult with all the rights to privacy as a legal adult.  This includes a medial right to privacy under HIPPA.  If you have been scheduling appointments, receiving test results, or making your child's healthcare decisions for the past 18 years, it may surprise you to find that you are no longer entitled to receive your child's healthcare information.  This is true even if your child is still on your medical insurance and you are paying the bill.  

This typically comes to light after your child has gone off to college or moves to start a new job and has a medical issue.  Without a Healthcare Power of Attorney in place, you will find that getting access to your child's medical information or current medical condition can be challenging, frustrating, and perhaps scary.  This is because medical staff have been trained to fear legal action for releasing information to someone who lacks the authority to receive it.  Simply put, without your child's authorization for a nurse or doctor to release medical information to you, that information will not be released.  

An easy way to avoid this situation is to have your child designate you as their Healthcare Agent.  This is done in a legal document where your child  appoints you as his/her agent to make healthcare decisions for them if they are unable to make those decisions.  The Healthcare Power of Attorney will also give you, as the agent, the right to obtain medical information about your child.  

In addition to a healthcare power of attorney, your child should consider the benefits of a financial power of attorney.  This legal document gives you, as the agent, the authority to make financial decisions (manage bank accounts, sign tax returns, make car payments) on behalf of your son or daughter in the event that he/she is unable to do so.  This document also allows you to communicate with your child's college or university if there are questions regarding tuition or scholarships.  In Maryland, the financial power of attorney also protects digital assets (subscription services, social media, etc.)  This serves as a prudent way to help your child with his/her finances as they mature through adulthood.

Since each state has different laws governing healthcare and financial powers of attorney, this could be a great first experience for you child to interact with an attorney.  It is important to plan ahead and not procrastinate. Signing these documents early, will save you unnecessary stress and the cost of court appointed guardianship if your young-adult child needs medical attention or requires assistance with his/her finances.

For more information contact Kelly McCrea at 443-906-1477 or kelly@kmclawmd.com to discuss your child's particular circumstances.   

see also Documents you need when your child turns 18

 

Kelly McCrea