The links in this post may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure statement here.
There’s so much to do to get ready to send your child off to college beyond just shopping for their dorm room, and you’re on top of it all. But, there’s one critically important thing that many parents forget to do.
Did you know that in most states once your child turns 18, you no longer have access to their medical records and no longer have the right to make decisions about their medical care? That means, should your adult child be involved in an accident where they are unable to communicate on their own behalf, you have NO legal right to make decisions and manage the care they receive. Just being their parent does not automatically assign you these rights and, should you find yourself in this horrible predicament, the last thing you are going to want to do is go to court to have these rights assigned. There’s an easy fix for this; before saying goodbye to your college child, you need to have them fill out a healthcare proxy and sign a durable power of attorney. These don’t require the services of an attorney and are written in pretty simple English. At most, in some states and for some cases with the durable power of attorney, you might need to have it notarized.
[Click here for a no-nonsense, no junk, no waste freshman shopping list]
What is a healthcare proxy? A healthcare proxy is a legal document in which an individual can appoint another person(s) to make healthcare decisions on their behalf should they become incapacitated and unable to make these decisions on their own. It’s really that simple. These forms are state-specific and are available online for free on Caring Info.
[Ever wonder how to pick the perfect college roommate?
Read, 5 Tips For Picking The Perfect College Roommate]
What is a durable power of attorney? This form is probably the less important of the two as far as a college-age student is concerned, but it is still a reasonable recommendation. Don’t confuse this with a power of attorney. A power of attorney gives someone you appoint the right to act on your behalf in legal matters. Let’s say you and your spouse are buying a new house but only one of you can be present for the closing. You would sign a power of attorney to appoint someone, usually your spouse, to sign on your behalf. A durable power of attorney is different. It gives a person(s) you appoint the power to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated and incapable of doing so. This document is very important for aging parents, but that’s a whole other story. These are also state-specific and can be found through a Google search or by clicking here.
What you do with this paperwork is as important as having it filled out. You need to have it readily accessible, so putting it your safe-deposit box would not be recommended. Rather, you should make several copies. Scan the original so that you have it in electronic form should you need to send it somewhere in a pinch. Keep an original set somewhere safe in your home. If your child has a primary care doctor near their school, it would be a good idea to file a copy there. You might also want to contact the hospital near the university, the university’s healthcare center, or the university itself to see if they maintain these documents on file. You can also ask about this at orientation (Orientation – For Parents).
It is also very important to be prepared for when your child gets sick at school, and they WILL get minor illnesses and viruses in the great petri dish they call dorms. Read, Preparing For When Your Child Gets Sick At College – Know Before They Go! Reading this post before you even go to orientation will save you a lot of heartache when your child calls you to say they aren’t feeling well.
Join our Facebook discussion page, Parenting College Students.