Planning for the Graduate

It is that time of year when a new group of parents prepare to send their young adult children off to college. Books are purchased. Plans are made. Move in dates are scheduled. Students go off on their own; but, they are not quite grown. As a parent of a college bound child, have you thought about how you will stay informed if your child gets sick or how you will replace a lost debit card?

Many parents assume that because they are paying tuition, assisting financially, or carrying a child on their health insurance policy, they have the right to make decisions for the child. Although the student may be a child in the eyes of parents, that eighteen-year-old is an adult in the eyes of the law and entitled to the same privacy protections as all adults. College students need legal documents to ensure that their parents can access information and make decisions for the student if necessary.

Every eighteen-year-old needs the following three legal documents: a HIPAA release; a durable power of attorney for healthcare; and a durable power of attorney for finances.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects private health information and forbids disclosure without authorization. Without a release, a parent might not be able to determine if a child has been admitted to the hospital. A HIPAA release gives immediate access to medical records.

A power of attorney for healthcare allows your child to name you as an agent to make medical decisions in the event of incapacity. Without this document, a court appointed guardianship could be your only option. Guardianships a time consuming, expensive, and cumbersome.

Financial institutions cannot disclose private information even if your child relies on you for financial support. A durable power of attorney for finances allows you to take care of financial and legal matters such as working with landlords, managing student accounts, and signing contracts.

With COVID-19 spreading like wildfire, being prepared is essential. Talk to your young adult child about the importance of basic estate planning. Be sure that you can legally help when your child needs you most.

Karen Baim Reagler is an estate planning attorney practicing in Hot Springs and Hot Springs Village. For questions you can reach her at Baim Reagler & Naramore, PLLC, at 501-609-9800.

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