As most parents know, sending a child off to college is both exciting and bittersweet. Even in the best of times, it is fraught with worry. Now, while a pandemic still rages and the news is filled with stories of COVID-19 outbreaks at campuses across the country, your concerns about your child’s well-being while far from home are more acute than ever.
But while the desire to take care of your child is as strong as it has always been, your ability to help them if they get sick changed dramatically when they turned 18. If they fall ill from COVID-19, get in a serious accident, or have other major health problems, you may not be able to assist them with, or even know about, medical, financial, and other issues as you always have – unless you and your child have the right documents in hand.
Your Parental Rights Ended on Your Child’s 18th Birthday
Once your child turned 18, they became an adult in the eyes of the law – even if they still live at home with you while they take classes remotely. Adults have the exclusive right to decide and take action regarding their own healthcare and financial affairs. A parent’s legal right to involve themselves in such matters ends on their child’s 18th birthday.
That means a doctor treating your child may not discuss their condition or treatment with you because of strict privacy laws protecting personal health information. It means that you won’t have access to your child’s bank or credit card accounts if you need to help them pay their bills while they are seriously ill. It means that if tragedy strikes, you can be left largely helpless in the time of your child’s greatest need.
Make Sure Your Child Has Given You the Ability to Help Them in Their Time of Need
It is essential that parents ensure that their college students and other adult children prepare and sign the documents that can provide their parents with the legal authority to access information and make decisions on their behalf if they are not able to do so themselves.
Specifically, parents should make sure their child has signed, and that both the parents and child have copies of these documents:
- A durable power of attorney for healthcare (including HIPAA authorization and release). This document gives physicians permission to share and discuss the child’s medical information with their parents or other individuals designated on the form.
- A durable power of attorney for finances. This document allows parents to take care of their child’s bills, deal with their landlord, access their bank accounts, and otherwise handle their affairs if they become incapacitated.
Contact Kreis Enderle Today, So You’re Ready for Tomorrow
If you want to make sure you can help your college student when they need you, we can help you do so. If you have questions about powers of attorney or would like assistance preparing the documents necessary to protect your child, please contact one of Kreis Enderle’s estate planning attorneys today.