COVID-19 & Your College Age Student

Has your child turned 18? Have they started college, are they studying abroad or taking a gap year?

If the answer is YES, there are two important documents that your child should have in place that are vital in helping your child, and you, in the event of an emergency. The importance of these documents, especially in the current COVID-19 crisis, cannot be understated.

What are these documents?

  • A durable power of attorney for health care
  • A durable power of attorney for property

Many parents may not realize that in most states your child is an adult once they turn 18. Further, certain federal laws such as the privacy laws under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) can prevent parents of children who have reached 18 years of age from accessing their children’s grades, bank accounts, disciplinary records, or even information about their healthcare. As such, a parent’s ability to discuss these matters with your child’s doctors, health care institutions, or school, in the event your child has a medical emergency may be limited or restricted, even if you are “paying the bills” or providing the health insurance for your child.

The durable power of attorney for healthcare allows your child to appoint someone, typically a parent, as the child’s health care agent to make medical decisions on their behalf if they are or become unable to make those decisions on their own. The durable power of attorney should include a HIPAA release to comply with the HIPAA privacy laws, and can also include “living will” provisions that would address end of life decisions. No-one likes to think about such matters for a young adult, but properly addressing these issues now can provide relief that can minimize the emotional issues that arise if a young adult faces a health crisis.

The durable power of attorney for property allows your child to appoint someone, again typically a parent, as the child’s agent to handle financial matters on their behalf. This may be important if your child is away at school, allowing their agent to deal with the child’s bank accounts, student loans, other bills, and even grades. You or your child can also check with their educational institution to see if they have any requirements in this regard, as many colleges and universities have their own suggested forms that they may require in addition to these documents.

These documents are not complicated and easy to prepare and can provide you and your child the peace of mind in knowing that you are there to support them when needed in a way that complies with the law. Please feel free to reach out to our Director of Estate Planning, Tom Shea, Esquire, to discuss. 

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