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Make Sure You Can Help Your College Age Child In A Medical Emergency

I took my middle son to college last week.  My oldest is now a college senior and my youngest is a high school junior.

Dropping my middle child off at college was just as emotional as dropping off my first.  There is still that incredible mix of feelings – sadness, excitement, pride, anxiety, joy, love.  To all the parents who have taken or are taking kids to school this month and next, whether its preschool, kindergarten, middle school, high-school or college, I understand.

And now, once again, reality is setting in:  the house is much quieter, my grocery bill is lower, I’m watching even fewer high school sporting events, and, of course, I miss him as does the rest of our family.  Gizmo’s tail (our pug) is even uncurled.   I also worry.  He’s far away.   Did he remember his rain-coat, 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?

Because it’s timely for me and many of my friends, I am revising and reposting the blog I posted 3 years ago when my oldest went to college.

Important Documents 

The answer to, can a parent help in an emergency, is – 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.  When a child turns 18, however, we lose many of our parental rights and are no longer 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 forms.

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

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.

Updated on 8/27/2022 by Stephanie Copp Martinez, JD.


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