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Helping Your College-Age Child in a Medical Emergency

I took my oldest son to college 3 weeks ago.  What an exciting, emotional and hectic time.  Now reality is setting in:  the house is much quieter, my grocery bill is lower, I’m watching fewer high school sporting events, and, of course, I miss him as does the rest of our family.  I also worry.  He’s 900 miles away.  Is he eating enough, is he making friends, does he like his classes?  And the big one, what happens if he’s in an accident and taken to the emergency room?  Can I help?

Important Documents 

Maybe not.  As parents – we may think that just because our children depend on us still – we should have access to their medical and financial information.  After all, we’re paying the bills.  After a child turns 18, however, we lose many of our parental rights and are no given automatic access to medical records, grades, or even how much tuition we owe.

The good news is that there are several important legal documents our children can sign that will keep us involved in a medical emergency.

HIPAA Authorization

If you have ever tried to get medical information about a friend or loved one in the hospital, you know it can be difficult.  HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, prohibits healthcare providers from disclosing information about their patients.  A HIPAA Authorization allows healthcare providers to disclose information to the people listed on the form.  Your child can list you on the HIPAA form, allowing you to get access to their health-related information.

Medical or Healthcare Power of Attorney

A Medical or Healthcare Power of Attorney allows your child to appoint agents (typically their parents) to act on their behalf and make decisions for them if they become incapacitated or are not able to make medical decisions.

A related document, a Living Will or Advance Directive, specifies wishes regarding treatment a person does or does not want to receive if they or terminally ill or near death and there is little likelihood of recovery.

Although we recommend that you consult with a lawyer regarding your family’s specific needs and to ensure your documents will work, there are generic forms online.  The link below will take you to the Missouri Bar’s pdf fillable form.

Durable or Financial Power of Attorney

A Financial Power of Attorney allows your child to designate someone to sign documents and handle financial matters on their behalf.   For children who are far away or traveling abroad, this document can allow a parent to manage financial accounts or sign tax returns on behalf of their child.

FERPA Waiver for College Students

FERPA, The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, is designed to protect the privacy of educational records.  Once a student turns 18, rights and access to these records transfer to the student.  Typically, universities allow students to sign forms that give access to designated people to receive at least some of these records.  My son gave me access to his tuition bill.  ?

Our college students may be adults legally – but as parents, we still want to help in an emergency.

Contact our St. Louis office at 314-303-3218 for assistance preparing these documents for your adult child and for other questions regarding estate planning or elder law.

** The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.

Written on 9/7/2019 by Stephanie Martinez, JD.


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