There are three important legal documents that parents should have in place before their college student leaves for or returns to school. Once a person reaches the age of majority, his or her parents are no longer entitled to access medical records, financial information, or make decisions on their child’s behalf. In case there is an accident, illness, or other incapacitating events, setting up an estate plan that includes a medical power of attorney, durable power of attorney, and HIPAA authorization can help ensure that parents can step in, access information, and make important decisions if needed.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

This document designates one parent, both parents, or another individual as a “medical agent” in the event that a college student becomes unable to make decisions. It allows the agent(s) to view all medical records and make important decisions regarding treatment. Without this document, health care providers and medical staff will have sole power over the patient’s treatment.

General Durable Power of Attorney

While healthcare power of attorney allows a parent to make decisions regarding health care, a general durable power of attorney enables parents to manage legal or financial matters and other aspects of their child’s life. Similar to the health care power of attorney, the child will label a parent as an “agent” who can make decisions on his or her behalf. With this documentation, parents can pay bills, manage accounts, and perform other tasks if their child is incapable of doing so.

HIPAA Authorization Form

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 is important for protecting the privacy of each patient, allowing only specified individuals access to sensitive private health data. Unfortunately, this could exclude parents of children who have been injured or incapacitated due to injury and are currently hospitalized as a result.

With a HIPAA form signed by the adult child naming a parent as an authorized party, parents can view all of the patient’s health data and learn details about treatment, progress, and current status. Otherwise, the parent will only be able to access this data if a court appoints the parent as a guardian.

With these documents, parents of college students can have the power they need to make decisions if an unexpected injury or illness causes arise.