Before your child or dependent leaves for college this fall, it’s critical that you establish with them exactly how much involvement you will continue to have in their lives, and that – in a truly pedestrian sense – means filling in a sheaf of forms. You and your college-bound child may not even be aware, but when they turn 18, the outside world considers them a fully independent adult with rights of privacy and decision-making. In order to prevent you from being actively excluded from their medical, financial, and other affairs, it is necessary to generate legal instruments that clearly lay out the terms of your future involvement.
The most pressing concern is healthcare. If an 18-year-old is in an accident, their parents do not have the right to access their child’s medical status, much less the ability to make important medical decisions, unless they are previously authorized to do so by the adult child. This applies even if your young adult is on your health insurance plan!
Furthermore, banking, school, or medical officials are legally barred from communicating with parents without the young adult’s authorization. Make sure you have addressed these potential barriers before waving your son or daughter off on his or her great adventure.
Prepare for the worst, plan for the best
Your child may not be eager to sign away their freedom of agency right at the moment they’re venturing out into a world of independence. But if you initiate a conversation about what they would like to happen in the event of an emergency, it’s likely common sense will prevail.
You should also use the opportunity to discuss other ways they would like you to stay involved, including in their finances, health insurance, property insurance and access to grades.
But, at a minimum, we recommend you and your child complete the first forms marked in blue. You will also want to consider the others related to mental health and financial matters.
In some cases, you may need to complete multiple versions of the same forms, in order to be sure they are accepted by the college and the local authorities in your home state, the state where your child will be studying, and adjoining states if the school is close to a state line (for example, students at Dartmouth, New Hampshire, regularly make the short hop over to Vermont). Check your child’s college website for recommended forms that are acceptable. You may well have already received some suggestions.
As ever, if you have questions or need guidance, your Bridgewater team is here to help in any way we can.
- Access to medical information and records. The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 governs access. Here is the HIPAA release form approved by the New York State Department of Health. https://www.nycourts.gov/forms/Hipaa_fillable.pdf. A HIPAA Authorization does not need to be notarized or witnessed. It is valid until the expiration date your child notes. They can always revoke it in writing earlier than that date.
- Authority to make medical decisions. The Health Care Proxy or Medical Power of Attorney allows a student to designate someone to make medical decisions for them if they are unable to make them for themselves. Again, these vary by state.
- Health insurance. Make sure your child can remain on your healthcare plan even if not living at home, especially if they’re attending school out of state, or in another country. Check with your provider.
- Mental healthcare. If, at the time your student is enrolling in college, they already have a psychiatric diagnosis and are on medication for it, you will want to create
a Psychiatric Advanced Directive. You can find guidelines and a sample form here.
- The New York State Department of Health also provides a form relating to the Authorization for Release of Health Information (Including Alcohol/Drug Treatment and Mental Health Information) and Confidential HIV/AIDS-related Information, which does require a witness. https://www.health.ny.gov/forms/doh-5032.pdf
- Medical and Dental Appointments. It’s a good idea to make sure your child has any medical and dental appointments taken care of at least a month before they leave for college.
Good to have
- Insurance for personal belongings. You’ll want to check your homeowner’s insurance policy to determine if your child’s belongings are covered while they are away at school. It’s especially important to make sure that their laptop or tablet is covered so they’re still able to do their schoolwork. If your child is living off-campus, they may need to obtain renter’s insurance.
- Vehicle insurance. If your dependent child has been included on your auto insurance, and is taking a car with them, check they are still covered at their new address. On the other hand, if your college-bound child is moving more than a certain distance away, and will only be driving when they visit you, you may be eligible for a reduction on your premium. Check with your provider.
Also good to have
- Grades. Even if you’re footing the fees, you’re not automatically entitled to information about your child or dependent’s academic performance. Most colleges provide a waiver that students may sign allowing records to be released to parents.
Send them off with a folder of documents (virtual or paper). Make sure they have a copy, or online access, to their full health records. Same with all the authorization forms. Get copies of their prescriptions so they can fill them while they’re away. And, of course, make sure you have a duplicate folder too.
Your Bridgewater Team