You are the parent? So What?

The applications are in, standardized tests are complete and a college decision has been made.  Now all there is to do is outfit the dorm room and drop the kids off, right?  Maybe not.  A recent visit to an attorney’s office to update our estate documents opened our eyes to something that we hadn’t thought of before.

Consider a horrible, but not unthinkable situation:  Your adult child is no longer living in your home. You get a call from a roommate or friend saying that there has been a medical emergency and your child is in the hospital.  Your first instinct is to call or rush to the hospital to find out what is happening and…you are denied access to any information.  What happened?

HIPPA rules prohibit you from having the right to obtain medical information on your adult child, even if you are paying for their health insurance and they are covered by your plan.  It is up to the medical provider to disclose information to family members if they feel it is in the patient’s best interest, but it’s not a requirement.

There are 3 pieces of documentation that you should consider putting in place for your adult children: A HIPAA authorization, Medical Power of Attorney and a Durable Power of Attorney.  Each form has a specific purpose that can best be explained by a trusted attorney. A brief description of each, along with links to the sources is below:

HIPAA authorization

signed HIPAA authorization is like a permission slip. It permits health-care providers to disclose your health information to anyone you specify. A stand-alone HIPAA authorization (not incorporated into a broader legal document) does not have to be notarized or witnessed. They can stipulate not to disclose information about sex, drugs, mental health, or other details they might want to keep private.

Medical power of attorney/Health care proxy

In signing a medical POA you appoint an “agent” to make medical decisions on your behalf in case you are incapacitated and cannot make such decisions for yourself. Each state has different laws governing medical POA and, therefore, different legal forms. In many states, the HIPAA authorization is rolled into the standard medical POA form.

Durable power of attorney

As an additional step, young-adult children might consider appointing a durable power of attorney, enabling a parent or other designated agent to take care of business on the student’s behalf. If the student were to become incapacitated or if the student were studying abroad, the durable power of attorney would be able to, for example, sign tax returns, access bank accounts, and pay bills.

Cheryl Sternasty, CFP®