If you have children getting ready for college, you should consider having them prepare Durable General Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy documents.
From a practical perspective, you may be paying your child’s tuition and housing expenses, as well as covering him/her as a dependent on your health insurance; however, in the eyes of the law, a child is a legal adult at the age of 18 years and is entitled to privacy protections for financial and health care matters.
Under federal privacy rules (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act known as “HIPAA”) medical providers such as doctors, nurses, and hospital staff cannot speak with you regarding an adult patient’s medical condition without the patient’s consent. In other words, if your child gets sick and requires medical care, medical information cannot be disclosed to you, even though you are the parent, with proper legal authority.
In the event of a medical emergency, parents may want to assure that they have legal authority to get information from their child’s medical providers. A Health Care Proxy is a legal document that allows a patient to designate an agent to make health care decisions in the event they are unable to speak for themselves. Additionally, the document may contain a HIPAA authorization to allow doctors and medical providers to release medical information.
A Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document that appoints an agent to handle personal financial matters and obtain financial information. There are situations where a Power of Attorney would be useful to collect financial aid or student loan checks payable to the student, handle issues related to financial assistance, and bill paying. This may be particularly helpful if your student is studying abroad. If your child runs into issues with his/her passport or the authorities in another country, you can have the authority to help.
Your child may be hesitant to give up privacy rights and may only want you to have access on a need-to-know basis. A family meeting to discuss the pros and cons may be helpful, but, ultimately your child’s decision. Before your child heads off to college this Fall, sit down and create a plan for handling medical emergencies and other unexpected obstacles. It will give both parent and child peace of mind.
If you have any questions about the above material, or wish to speak to attorney, please contact HoganWillig, Attorneys at Law at (716)636-7600 or visit www.hoganwillig.com. HoganWillig’s main office is located at 2410 North Forest Road in Amherst, New York with additional offices in Lockport, Lancaster and Buffalo.