Don’t Head Back-to-College Without These 3 Documents

Whether your school year has already started or your first day isn’t until after Labor Day, you are beginning to embrace the familiar sights, smells, and sounds of the back-to-school season. There is nothing quite like the excitement of filling up your backpack with clean notebooks, newly sharpened pencils, and an entire pack of markers that all have their lids. Ah, this really is a fun time of year for both parents and kids.

If you have a child heading off to college—or you are still wiping tears away from the recent school drop-off—there are a few additional things we would like to add to your back-to-school supply list: legal documents. Here are three documents we encourage you to get into place if you have (or will be) sending a child to college this year:

HIPAA Authorization Form

HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is a federal law that safeguards who can access an adult’s private health data. Should your 18-year-old child have an accident or require hospitalization of any kind, the healthcare team is prohibited from sharing their condition with you—even though you are the student’s parent. A HIPAA authorization, signed by your adult child and naming you as an authorized party, gives you the ability to ask for and receive information from healthcare providers about your child’s health status, progress, and treatment. “This is particularly important in the event your adult child is unconscious or incapacitated for a period of time,” suggests Ben Leonard for the National Law Review. “Without a HIPAA authorization in place, the only other way to obtain information regarding your child’s health would be to have a court appoint you as his or her guardian.”

Healthcare Power of Attorney

In addition to having a signed HIPAA authorization, we also encourage you to have a signed Healthcare Power of Attorney naming you as your child’s “medical agent.” If your child does become unconscious or incapacitated, the Healthcare Power of Attorney gives you the ability to view his or her medical records and make informed decisions on his/her behalf. Without this document (or a court-appointed guardianship), healthcare decisions regarding your child’s diagnosis and treatment are solely in the hands of healthcare practitioners. “While this is not always a bad thing, a physician’s primary duty is to keep the patient alive,” says Leonard. “So, a healthcare provider might not pursue a risky or experimental course of treatment at the risk of exposure to liability.”

General Durable Power of Attorney

The General Durable Power of Attorney authorizes you to make financial decisions on your child’s behalf should they not be able to do so on their own. This would allow you to manage bank accounts, pay bills, sign tax returns, apply for government benefits, break or apply for a lease, and conduct similar activities for your child’s financial and legal affairs.

Leonard suggests some important things parents need to remember about all of these documents:

· Update these forms yearly. The institutions where you would most likely use these documents—like hospitals and banks—might refuse to honor them if they are outdated.

· These documents can be revoked at any time by your adult child, either orally or in writing. Your adult child retains control of the ongoing validity of these documents.

· For adult children attending college at an out-of-state university, parents will want to execute separate documents in both the student’s home state and college state.

These “worst-case scenario” documents will probably never have to be used. But having them in place will give you great peace of mind while your child is away at school.

At Campbell Long, we believe in delivering a personalized level of service and care to our clients.  We are happy to look over your existing estate planning documents or help you create new ones. Please call or email us at 866-566-9494 or

This is for informational and promotional purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of information contained herein do not create an attorney-client relationship between Campbell Long and the recipient.