Graduation Month Checklist

Do you have a child going off to college soon? You may be asking yourself what else, besides helping them pack, do you need to do.  Once a child reaches the age of 18, a parent’s decision-making role is significantly diminished, especially with regards to making healthcare decisions.  So as you prepare to send your child off to college, make sure they sign these important documents.

Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare

Even though your child has the emotional and physical fortitude to act as an independent adult, there are circumstances that may arise when another person must step in to make decisions.

Should your adult child have an accident, or fall ill and cannot make their own medical decisions, your ability to make those decisions for them requires your child to sign an “Advance Health Care Directive” (in California) or a “Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care” (in Idaho) naming you as their healthcare agent(s).  Otherwise, your ability to make healthcare decisions may be dependent upon the order of priority established by state statute, or may even require a court petition in the jurisdiction where your child is located to be appointed as his/her conservator

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) Authorization

In order to make informed medical decisions, it is important to include a HIPAA authorization form along with a Health Care Power of Attorney.  Without it, you may not communicate with healthcare professionals and insurance companies, or access your child’s health records and previous treatment information.

Durable Power of Attorney (Finances and Property)

It is common for parents to be co-owners on their young adult child’s bank account(s), but a General Durable Power of Attorney for financial matters gives parents additional powers to make financial decisions on their child’s behalf, should they be unable to do so themselves.  This document is effective immediately and allows you to pay their rent, credit card bills, car payments, utilities, access bank accounts and financial records, as well as manage any loans they may have.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) Release

FERPA is designed to protect a college student’s privacy, but it can also leave parents locked out in an emergency.  A properly worded release can allow parents to talk to school officials and release pertinent educational records and information should they need it.

Digital Asset Authorization

Sharing of passwords is prohibited under all providers’ terms of service and access to an account may be restricted, closed and deleted if the password is shared.  So how do you access someone else’s online accounts if they are unable to because of sickness or death?  Some sites have an online tool (Google’s “Inactive Account Manager” and Facebook’s “Legacy Contact”).  The choices made in the online tools will control over any estate plan document.  Many other sites do not have online tools to provide authorization in the event of sickness or death, or if the online tool is not utilized you will need legal written permission to access the account.  Estate plan documents can provide the legal written permission, or, if there are no plan documents, a court order maybe needed.  Encourage your kids to thoughtfully utilize the online tools and have them sign a Digital Asset Authorization granting permission to access the accounts.  The choices made should be consistent with the online tools and written permission.

Will

While parents do not want to think about this topic, especially as their child leaves home, it is an important document to add to the list. A Will appoints a personal representative to close their estate, notify creditors and most importantly, allows parents to honor their child’s wishes regarding what should be done with their assets.

Prepare yourself and your child for their next stage of life.  And, while you discuss the important documents listed here, the next conversation should be about budgeting, credit cards, and managing their finances during their college years and beyond. Contact Jill Eshman Law for more information about these important documents.