Would You Like a Power of Attorney with that Diploma?

It’s that time of year again. High school seniors are preparing to graduate and head off to college, and parents are wondering how it’s possible that their children are all grown up!

It’s a milestone that highlights how quickly the years pass. I know. My son will be graduating next year, and I am already getting emotional thinking about it.

While you’re likely proud of how much your children have accomplished and excited about the bright opportunities that lie ahead for them, you’re probably also a bit anxious too. As a parent, it’s been your job to keep your children safe for 18 years, but now, your babies are heading out alone.

You hope that all the lessons you’ve taught your children will help them make wise choices and stay safe. But what happens if things go wrong? Will you be able to step in to help your children need you most?

Without three important documents, you may not be.  Why?

Because once your children turn 18, they are adults in the eyes of the law.

That means that even though they will likely continue to rely on you for the majority of their support and depend on you for health insurance coverage during college, privacy protections will prevent financial institutions and medical providers from disclosing private information concerning them to you without their authorization.

That’s why it’s important your graduate should sign three important documents before heading off to college:

  1. Durable Power of Attorney: The Durable Power of Attorney will allow your child to authorize you to manage his financial affairs either immediately or in the future should he become mentally or physically unable to do so. This would authorize you to handle tasks such as paying bills, applying for social security or government benefits and opening and closing accounts if necessary.
  2. Medical Power of Attorney: The Medical Power of Attorney allows your child to authorize you to make medical decisions if he or she is incapacitated and unable to do so. An agent acting under a Medical Power of Attorney is authorized to see the principal’s medical records to make informed medical decisions on his or her behalf.
  3. HIPAA Release: HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) requires health care providers and insurance companies to protect the privacy of patient’s health care information. Those who violate HIPAA are subject to civil and criminal penalties, including jail time, which makes them reluctant to share protected health information without an authorization.While it’s true an agent under a Medical Power of Attorney has the authority to view the principal’s medical records, the Medical Power of Attorney does not grant authority to the agent until the principal is incapacitated. If capacity is questioned, then HIPAA regulations would prevent access to protected health information.This means that even parents may be prevented from accessing their children’s medical information without an authorization, just like the mom above. By signing a HIPPA release your child can authorize doctors to share diagnoses and treatment options with you.

These three documents are easy to prepare and are relatively inexpensive. If you have a child heading off to college this year, it’s important that you discuss the importance of these documents with him or her.

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