Flying the Coop – How an Estate Plan Benefits College Students

The summer is coming to a close and the school season is upon us. It’s time for college students to pack up and return to their campuses and dorms. It’s an exciting time of year as young adults learn to navigate their own lives and come into adulthood. I’m often asked by parents what rights they have to their child’s medical info as they turn eighteen and whether they have a say in their medical care. And the simple answer is NO – parents have NO access to their adult child’s medical information and NO say in the type of medical care their child receives even if they are on your medical insurance. While I know that doesn’t give parents a warm and fuzzy feeling, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a solution to this issue.

The Problem

In 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed. HIPAA created privacy restrictions on protected medical information. Once eighteen, a person can restrict their doctors from sharing medical information and can restrict who can talk with their doctors. In the event of an emergency or an unexpected illness this can create many challenges to making sure that your child receives the medical care that they need.

The Solution

So, what’s a parent to do? There are relatively simple forms that children can sign that grant their parents access to their medical information and to speak with their doctors. These forms include a HIPAA release and a medical power of attorney.

HIPAA Authorization

In a HIPAA Authorization your child can designate specific individuals that their doctors can release protected medical information to. This will allow family members, friends, and loved ones to speak with doctors about your child’s care, condition, or treatment. This means that if your college-aged child is in a spring break accident or is injured on campus you can speak with your child’s doctor to get access and updates on their condition and treatment. The thought of unlimited access to medical information may be overwhelming to your child, which is why the HIPAA Authorization can be limited to exclude sensitive medical details related to mental health, prescription, sexual activity, or any other private information.

Medical Power of Attorney

While a HIPAA Authorization allows access to medical information, it doesn’t give the power to make medical decisions. This can be a challenge if your college-aged child is unable to make their own medical decisions because of their condition. A medical power of attorney allows your child to designate an individual to make medical decisions on their behalf. A medical power of attorney also outlines the types of decisions your child wants their medical agent to make on their behalf, such as getting second opinions and authorizing medical treatment and procedures. In some instances a medical power of attorney can also spell out end-of-life decision making, such as being resuscitated or life-sustaining treatments if your child is in a vegetative state.

If You Want to Cover All of the Bases

So far we’ve talked about the medical information that parents need access to in a medical emergency for their young adult children. But what about the financial aspect of it? Depending on the medical emergency there may be some other decisions that must be dealt with that don’t involve medical information. In the event that your child has a bank account that has to be managed, bills that have to be paid, a lease that needs to be broken, or a university that must be dealt with, you may need to make sure that your child also has a durable power of attorney. A power of attorney will allow your child to designate an individual to make their financial decisions and transactions on their behalf.

Also, if you’ve read any of my other blog articles you’ll know that I’m a huge proponent of a good family meeting. Sitting down and going through all of this information to educate your college-aged child the importance of these documents is crucial to making sure that your child is protected in an emergency.

Last, our firm offers secure cloud-based storage of health directives and emergency medical information through DocuBank’s College Card service. This allows medical providers access to parent’s contact information in an instant along with allergies and other important medical information.

If your family is in need of estate planning for your college-aged child before they head back to college feel free to give us a call and set up a consult – it’s our pleasure to help!

Photo by Matt Ragland on Unsplash

About the Author

Alyssa Marie Monteleon, Esq.

Alyssa Marie Monteleon is an elder law and estate planning attorney at the Monteleon Law Group, PLLC with offices in New York and Virginia. For more information, please visit or call (914) 840-2529.

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