Back to School: Health Care Directives and Powers of Attorney for College Students

August 13, 2014Articles Estate Planning Blog

As summer draws to a close, millions of young adults will head off to college in the next few weeks. If one of these is your son or daughter (or you have clients with children in college), do yourself a favor and make sure your child signs an advanced health care directive and financial power of attorney before heading back to campus. From time to time, we hear about unfortunate cases where a parent needs to handle a health-related issue for a child or a child's financial affairs and runs into problems because no written authorization exists to allow the parent to act.

Most parents are shocked to learn that health care privacy laws won't let them access health care information about an 18-year-old child without written authorization. Parents who have coordinated and overseen all aspects of their child's medical care since birth, now can't get a doctor to speak with them because, legally, their children are adults and are protected by federal privacy laws. You can imagine the distress this could cause in an emergency medical situation with a child who may be several hundred miles from home. A well-drafted advanced health care directive not only appoints someone to make health care decisions, but also provides authorization to access otherwise protected, private health care information and records.

Although you may feel that time is running out and you don't think you can get to Bed Bath and Beyond for those last minute dorm needs let alone to lawyer's office, we encourage you to make this a priority. Hopefully, you'll never need to use these documents, but if you do, you'll be glad you have them.