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School is out and soon many of you will be hosting or attending graduation parties for high school seniors. Other than money, what does a student heading off to college need?

One thing to consider is having documents prepared that would allow you, as parents, to make decisions should your child become incapacitated while away at school. Many parents are not aware that because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), they will not be able to obtain information about their child’s condition from medical authorities once their child turns 18. Your child turning 18 also means you may no longer be able to handle financial matters for them. Before sending a child off to school, parents should have their child sign Medical and Financial Powers of Attorney.

A Medical Power of Attorney can be drafted to give you, as parents, the right to designate medical treatment for your child if they are unable to participate in medical decisions. In addition, you need a HIPAA medical privacy release to allow the health care providers to talk to you if your adult child is incapacitated. While it would be devastating to find out your child is in the hospital, not having access to details of your child’s condition because of HIPAA would make a bad situation even worse.

Your child should also have a financial durable power of attorney (DPOA). A DPOA names someone to make financial decisions (access bank accounts, deal with the university as to grades, tuition and fees, file tax returns, etc.) even if the child is not present or is incapacitated.

Sending your child off to college is an exciting time. Having these documents in place before your student departs for college is an essential part of the preparation.