Your college students are back at college, and they have their financial aid, books, laptops, dorm room supplies, groceries…but do they have everything that they need? Your college student needs legal documents as they head back to school to ensure that you are able to make key medical and emergency decisions for your child should something occur.
Waiver of Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
With your child now being a legal adult, you no longer have the ability to access their education information. This may seem unfair if you are paying for their education, but nevertheless no access is permitted automatically under FERPA. Your child will need to fill out their college’s FERPA waiver in order for you to have access to your child’s college records.
Key exceptions where a FERPA waiver is not required include medical emergency, underage drinking, and dependents (who meet certain criteria).
- Financial Power of Attorney
This power of attorney (POA) document allows your child to designate someone who will be able to handle your child’s financial matters. This is everything from accessing your child’s bank account to pay bills, to filing tax returns. There are 2 different kinds of POAs, springing and durable. A springing POA means that the document is not effective to give the designated agent his/her powers until some event, such as incapacitation, occurs. A durable POA is effective immediately which means that whoever your child designates as the agent has the power to assist with the finances of your child as soon as the POA is signed.
Medical Authorizations and Documents
Now that your child has attained 18 years of age, they are legally an adult and you are no longer able to automatically access, and be privy to, your child’s medical records. This can be scary for parents, but your child can take several steps to keep you involved in your child’s care.
- HIPPA Authorization
This authorization is key to allow doctors to speak to you about your child’s medical care in case of emergency.
- Medical Power of Attorney
This document allows your child to select someone who can make medical decisions for your child should your child be unable to communicate with medical care providers.
- Living Will
This document allows your child to choose someone who will make end-of-life care decisions on your child’s behalf. This document is especially hard for families to think about because no one wants to consider that their young college student would be in a vegetative state. However, as I always say, it’s better to be prepared now than to scramble latter. A living will only becomes effective when your child is unable to make their own decisions and is in an end-stage medical condition or permanently unconscious.
*For each of the medical and financial documents it is the best practice for your child to appoint not only a primary agent to act on their behalf but also a contingent agent who would step in and act if the primary agent is unavailable or unable to act.
- Insurance for your child’s belongings
According to BestColleges.com, burglaries accounted for around 7,000 of the 22,000 on-campus crimes in 2020. No one wants to think about this but just like we protect our houses and our belongings with homeowners’ insurance, our children need to protect their belongings with insurance as well. Verify with your insurance carrier whether or not your child’s belongings are covered under your homeowners’ policy when your child is at college or if your child needs his/her own renters’ policy. Also, make sure that your child’s laptop and other expensive items that are key to their education are covered by insurance. It is a good idea to inventory your child’s valuables that have been taken to college, listing the cost of each, so that you are better prepared in case you, of your child need to file an insurance claim.
- Car Insurance
Check with your auto insurance whether your child’s car is included on your or your child’s own auto policy. Your child may have downsized to a new car for college or bought a new car of their own. Either way always take the time to verify the terms of the policy to know what is covered, i.e. does the policy include a rental car if the car is in the shop, what’s the liability coverage, is the coverage enough, are towing services included, etc.? It is also important to have a conversation with your child that no one is allowed to drive that car other than your child. If someone else drives your child’s car and is involved in an accident then the owner of the vehicle may have liability exposure.
It can be hard to think of your child as an adult but once they turn 18 your child is a legal adult and new laws will apply to your child’s information, belongings, etc. Help your college student be prepared and work with an experienced professional today to make sure that your child is prepared and protected.