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Use Basic Estate Planning Tools to Protect Your Children Even After They Turn 18

What parents don’t always realize is that once their children turn eighteen, they lose access to medical records, private information, bank accounts, and more, even if their child is still listed as a dependent and under their health insurance. If a child goes off to college and is injured in an automobile accident, the leading cause of deaths among young adult, the parents would not have the authority to discuss their child’s condition or make decisions for them. An easy fix to this problem is to have the college student sign a durable power of attorney, a HIPAA authorization, and a health care proxy.

By signing a health care proxy, parents will be allowed to make medical decisions and discuss treatment plans. This particular document becomes especially useful when the student is not in the proper mental or physical state to do so. Often times a HIPAA authorization form is included in a health care proxy, which allows disclosure of health information to certain people, such as parents. A power of attorney allows parents to sign forms in their child’s name; parents would be able to sign leases, tax returns, pay bills, and access financial accounts. Not only would a power of attorney be useful when a student becomes incapacitated, it can also come in handy if the child is studying abroad and needs forms signed back in the US or a wire transfer. These three forms are essential to sign before children leave for college, especially since most college students are still dependents of their parents.

While parents may see the importance of these forms, their college-age children may object. Some reasons may be that a health care proxy gives parents access to medical records and poses a privacy concern, and a power of attorney would allow parents to access academic records and grades.  However, these concerns can be alleviated by restricting the scope of the documents so that the college-age child can choose what information his or her parents are entitled to review, while restricting the remainder.  These three forms can keep parents legally involved without compromising a college student’s privacy.

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