Parents of college-bound students are advised to make sure that they have access to their children’s financial and medical records.
This column discusses some of the most important legal and permission documents parents should have in place .
Universal HIPAA Release Form
When a child becomes age 18, the child’s parents generally lose access to the child’s doctors and medical records. A universal HIPAA release form allows one individual’s medical information to be shared with another person, in this case the child’s medical information to be shared by the child’s parents. After becoming age 18, A child is considered an adult. The child can therefore specify which medical information he or she does not want to be shared. A universal HIPAA release form can be downloaded here.
It is important to note that a universal HIPAA release form is not the same form a young adult may have signed at a doctor’s office, limiting access to medical information and records to that specific doctor. A universal HIPAA release form is not limited to a single health care provider and can be especially important for situations when a child is far away (such as overseas) and the parents need information about their child’s health care.
Healthcare Power of Attorney (Healthcare Proxy)
A healthcare power of attorney or health care proxy allows a trusted individual (the “agent”) to make medical decisions on behalf of the person who is granting this permission (the “principal”). For a college or university student who may be unable to make any medical decisions concerning himself or herself, the student should have in place a healthcare power of attorney that allows an agent to make any medical decisions on his or her behalf. The child should have a healthcare power of attorney ideally appointing a parent or both parents as his or her health advocate via a healthcare power of attorney.
There are several ways a healthcare power of attorney can be prepared:
(1) By an attorney;
(2) Online legal site; or
(3) State-specific forms available through the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) here.
Most states will honor a legally valid healthcare proxy from another state. But if a child attends a college or university that is out of state, it is important to check the rules of healthcare proxy for both states. The individual is granted this healthcare proxy – the “advocate” – can be a parent, aunt, uncle, grandparent, older sibling or another trusted adult.
No parent ever wants to think about a medical worst case scenario when a child is away at a college or university. But if a medical crisis does occur, a parent has to be ready with a living will. A child’s living will legally explain ahead of time what kinds of lifesaving measures are acceptable to the young adult including CPR, ventilators and artificial nutrition. A living will can help in making decisions about pain management and organ donation. Because the rules regarding a living will are state specific, it is recommended that an estate attorney practicing law in the state in which the parents and child/student are residents should draw up the child’s living will document. Many states recognize a legally valid living will from another state.
Durable Financial Power of Attorney
There are situations in which a parent may want to pay their son’s or daughter’s rent or credit card bills or other expenses in order to avoid the child having to pay late fees. Late fees can affect the child’s credit score and rating. The problem is that the parent may not have access to their child’s passwords in order to pay the bills online. Having a durable financial power of attorney can be a way for the parent to step in on the child’s behalf in order to seek personal financial information without having to seek judicial permission.
Note that there are different opinions among attorneys and financial professionals as to how much financial authority a young adult should give his or her parent. There are some financial powers of attorney that take effect only in cases in which the young adult is considered disabled due to reasons such as mental illness, physical illness, or chronic drug use.
Children of federal employees can stay on their parent’s Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) program plan until they are age 26. Nevertheless, the question becomes whether children of federal employees enrolled at a college or university should enroll in the college- or university-sponsored health insurance plan. In case a child does enroll in a college- or university- sponsored health insurance plan, the parents should investigate how they can have access to the health plan if they want information about plan benefits, plan billing and overall coverage.
Access to the Child’s Educational and Discipline Records via FERPA
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (information about FERPA may be obtained here) bans a parent of a college student from having access to their child’s academic grades. To gain access to their child’s college or university academic and financial records, available financial aid, student account and/or disciplinary records, parents need their child to sign a FERPA waiver. Some colleges or universities allow their students to sign the FERPA waiver online, but policies may vary by college or university.