Today we’re going to talk about the three documents your child heading off to college needs to have. Every parent’s worst nightmare is their child goes off to college and something happens, they get sick, they get hurt, they get into a car accident. These documents make it so you can still help them when they’re out of state in college.
The first document is a HIPAA release or HIPAA waiver. This is very important since we have this HIPAA Act to protects patient’s privacy to make sure no information gets released. Nothing is going to get released to you as the parent either, because in the eyes of the law the child is now 18, actually an adult, and even though you are the parent it really doesn’t matter.
What the HIPAA waiver does, or HIPAA release is, it allows them to designate someone as a point of contact and someone that the healthcare facilities can share information with. This will cut through all that red tape of them saying no to you, and allow you to call facilities and say what’s going on with Johnny or Susie, and then they’ll be able to tell you.
The second document that’s really important is the medical power of attorney, or healthcare power of attorney, or healthcare proxy. It’s called a bunch of different names, but the most important thing you need to understand is when your child becomes incapacitated and can no longer make decisions for themselves due to a coma, being knocked out, so medically in bad shape that they just can’t make a decision, this document allows them to choose somebody to make informed decisions for them.
So what would happen is with the HIPAA waiver, that allows you to get information. The medical power of attorney allows you to make decisions for them. If they don’t have this, what happens is it defaults to the doctors making the decision. With the medical power of attorney, that gives the child, who is now an adult, the ability to make informed decisions about their care and guide whoever their agent is. But with the medical power of attorney you are their agent for medical and healthcare decisions if they’re incapacitated. If they have capacity, your role doesn’t happen yet.
The final thing they should have is a general power of attorney, a general durable power of attorney. What this does is… This is a legal and financial power of attorney that allows you to act as their agent when they’re incapacitated. In this situation it would allow you to pay bills, break leases, apply for government benefits, file their taxes, do banking for them. It would allow you to continue doing all their financial obligations that they have in dealing with any legal obligations while they are incapacitated.
So these three documents all work really well together and are very important once your child becomes an adult. The first document, the HIPAA waiver, that’s what designates you as a point of contact. Medical power of attorney, that’s what designates you an agent for healthcare decisions when they can’t make them themselves. The durable power of attorney, that’s what nominates you as an agent for legal and financial matters when they’re incapacitated and can’t make decisions for themselves.
If you have any other questions about this or other estate planning topics you can reach out to me via my website or by phone, 802-442-9800.
William C. Deveneau is an attorney practicing in Southern Vermont, including Bennington and Manchester, and New York, including Albany, Colonie, Hoosick Falls, and Troy.