Your child is getting ready to leave the nest and head off to college. Now would be a good time to make sure proper legal documents are ready, before the student departs.

There are several standard preparations required, as your child gets ready to head off to college life. In addition to the usual preparations, it would also be wise to have certain legal documents prepared before they go, according to in “Legal Documents Your Child Needs to Sign Before Heading to College.”

  1. HIPAA Authorization. Once your child turns 18, your access to their medical records ends unless they complete a form called a HIPAA Authorization. Your child must sign the form to give you access to their records, appointments, test results, and doctors. If your child is going to a school out of state, you may need a state-specific form. Keep these documents in a safe place, where you can access them quickly, in case of an emergency.
  2. Health Care Proxy or Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. The HIPAA Authorization gives no authority to make medical decisions for your child. A Health Care Proxy does, at those times when your child is unable to make or communicate medical decisions.
  3. Durable Power of Attorney. Chances are your student is heading off to college with a debit card and a credit card. However, do you have access to those accounts? Talk with your estate planning attorney about creating a Durable Power of Attorney, so you don’t run into any roadblocks, if your child needs help handling their finances. Opening a bank account or having a credit card attached to your account makes it easier for you to transfer money to your student. It also makes it easier for you to keep a watchful eye on their spending. Make a copy of the front and back of all cards so you can easily report them if lost or stolen.
  4. Colleges have a form known as FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), which you usually can obtain at some point during orientation. This is a document that gives you the legal right to your child’s academic and financial information through the college. Think of this as the college’s HIPAA law. It’s not the same, but it can create the same level of obstruction, if you do not address it in advance. With it in place, you’ll be able to discuss their finances with the bursar’s office, their grades with their academic advisor and many other offices in the college that will otherwise refuse to speak with you.

An estate planning attorney can advise you in preparing the proper legal documents.