Child Going Off to College? Want to check on their Grades? Here are the Documents You Need When a Child Turns 18

Your child is 18 going off to college. What will you do in case of his medical emergency at school? He’s 18; he now has privacy rights and the hospital will not communicate with you.  As stated in this Forbes article:

If you are about to send a child off to college or to a gap-year program, you’re probably busy with last-minute shopping, packing and worrying about roommates. Here’s one more thing you should do as you prepare for the big separation: Ask this young adult to sign a durable power of attorney and a health care proxy.

These two estate planning documents, more commonly associated with older folks, are essential for younger people too. Without them, in most states parents don’t have the authority to make health care decisions or manage money for their kids once they turn 18—even if they are paying the tuition, still have those kids on their health insurance plans and claim them as dependents on their tax returns. That means if a young adult is in an accident and becomes disabled, even temporarily, a parent might need court approval to act on his or her behalf.

HIPAA is the obstacle here:

Once a child turns 18, the child is legally a stranger to you,” said Jane F. Wolk, a trusts and estates attorney practicing in New York and New Jersey, referring to the legal age in almost all states; in a few, the legal age is older. “You, as a parent, have no more right to obtain medical information on your legal-age son or daughter than you would to obtain information about a stranger on the street.” And that is true even if the young-adult child is covered under the parents’ health insurance, and even if the parents are paying the bill.

A medical provider can choose to disclose protected health information to a family member, even without the patient’s authorization, if, in her professional judgment, it serves the best interest of the patient. But providers often come down on the side of patient privacy, particularly if they have never met the family member.

The need to provide healthcare or at least gain healthcare information is most important consideration; however, How can you check on his grades? He’s 18 the school is not going to communicate with you.

Though parents often pay for tuition, they are not parties to the agreement between student and school, Franc explains. Rules vary from one institution to the next, but many schools will not disclose grades without a student’s permission. A power of attorney, which gives an agent the right to enter into, renegotiate or amend contracts, can also be used to get access to the transcript, Franc says.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records, even if you are paying the tuition.

For Alabama, I would recommend your child sign a Durable Power of Attorney without springing features. I would also recommend that you convince your child to waive their FERPA privacy rights in your favor. I would also recommend a Living Will for the child with healthcare proxy provisions. Per Financial Advisor:

Estate plans are not just for old, rich people, says Ric Edelman, the founder of Edelman Financial Group in Fairfax, Va.

Instead, everyone 18 years and older should have one. . .

A medical directive and medical power of attorney are particularly important for a young person. Through these legal vehicles, a young person can explain whether he or she wants to be kept on life support and what arrangements should be made for internment. . .

“If a young person is disabled and unable to take care of affairs, someone needs to make sure money is in the bank so that bills get paid,” Edelman warns. Someone also has to be designated as durable power of attorney so that rent, car payments and other bills are paid.