originally published on July 16, 2019 and updated on August 4, 2021
As your child heads off to college this fall, there's one must have item you won't see on any college packing lists: a signed Power of Attorney. Once 18, your child is considered an adult for certain purposes in most states, and it may surprise you that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other privacy laws prevent a parent from automatically having the right to check grades, receive tuition bills or obtain information regarding your child’s healthcare. Instead, a student must give explicit permission through a power of attorney or other school generated form to ensure their parents’ access to health, financial and educational information. This is the case, even if you are paying a portion or all of your child’s tuition.
Why Your Child Needs a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care allows your child to designate an agent (usually a parent) to make medical decisions when he or she is unable to do so. For a young adult, it is important to make sure that you have access to your child’s medical records. This is particularly true when your child is too busy with school work to take care of follow up health care items, such as transferring files or requesting copies of x-rays to at-home doctors. In some states, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care forms include HIPAA release language. However, if a state's Power of Attorney does not incorporate HIPAA language, a separate release form should be prepared.
Why Your Child Needs a Durable Power of Attorney for Property
In addition to a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, your 18-year-old child should execute a Durable Power of Attorney for Property. Without it, even though a parent may be a child’s sole source of support, a parent has no right to access a college age child’s bank account or receive a copy of your child’s grades. A Durable Power of Attorney for Property designates an agent (usually a parent) to handle financial matters for the principal (your child). While your child is at school, you may need a Durable Power of Attorney for Property to manage student loans, investment accounts and other fiscal matters.
If you have questions about preparing a Power of Attorney, please contact anyone in our Trusts & Estates group.