You and your new college freshman are almost there — you’ve packed the bags, helped choose the first year courses, and made sure your student has communicated with her new roommate. There’s one more item to check off your “to do” list: the legal documents.
Once your child turns 18, she’s legally an adult. Without her written consent, you have no access to or control over her finances or legal and medical information. You and she will likely agree informally as to some sharing—after all, if you’re footing her tuition, you want to see her grades. Universities are very good at making certain parents have access to the tuition bill. However, when it comes to dealing with third parties, you need something more formal in place.
The critical documents are a Power of Attorney and a Medical Directive / Health Care Proxy. Your attorney can prepare these for very little cost; your child will have to sign them before witnesses and a notary.
The Power of Attorney allows you to act on your student’s behalf and to receive information about your student from the college, from the government, and from other businesses and institutions. The Medical Directive and Health Care Proxy allow you access to your student’s medical records and, if the need arises, to make medical decisions for your student.
Scan the signed documents into your computer, so you can use them long distance. It’s a good idea to email copies to the student health center and the dean of students early on in the academic year, so they’re on file if you need them. You and your student should each have a set of signed originals.
Further, check with your health insurance provider to determine what needs to be done to ensure your insurance covers your child at college. There may be additional paperwork involved.
This is more than theoretical. Six weeks after beginning college — 1,500 miles from home—our son needed surgery. He did a great job of dealing with the doctors but had no clue about the medical insurance. Without the right documentation, we would not have been able to advocate for him and ensure he had the correct insurance coverage.
Note: Claire E. Toth, JD, MLT, CFP™, is Vice President at Point View Wealth Management, Inc., a registered investment advisor at 382 Springfield Ave., Summit. Visit us at www.ptview.com.
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