Stephanie K. Annunziata
Congratulations, parents! As a result of your love and support, your child
has graduated high school and is eagerly awaiting their departure for
college. While the relief is likely bittersweet, you are probably looking
forward to your child taking on a more adult role in the management of
their own affairs. Of course, you’ll still be there as a safety
net. Many parents don’t expect their 18 year old to become fully
independent without some help during the transition. However, in the eyes
of medical facilities, financial institutions and other organizations,
your child is a full-blown adult. Which means parents may find themselves
excluded from assisting their child with the management of medical care
or financial activities simply because their child is no longer a minor.
It may feel counterintuitive that your child – who may not even be
responsible enough to have clean underwear – is now considered an
adult in the eyes of the law. As a result, you may find yourself struggling
to do things such as making doctors’ appointments, accessing medical
results or paying their bills. More importantly, in the event of a catastrophic
injury or emergency, you may be unable to make medical decisions on behalf
of your child without the proper legal authority to do so.
College Checklist: Dorm Fridge & Powers of Attorney
So what’s the best way to avoid these types of complications? Don’t
let your child leave home for college without the following estate planning
- Health Care Power of Attorney
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Release
- Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Affairs.
In New Hampshire, a
Health Care Power of Attorney is a straightforward document which would allow your child to appoint
you as a “Health Care Agent” who may step in and make medical
decisions on his or her behalf in the event they become unable to make
these decisions on his or her own. Your child retains their autonomy to
make medical decisions while they are able, but in the event of their
incapacity, the power of attorney will allow their selected agent to authorize
and direct their medical treatment. For example, if your child is injured
and unconscious, you could rely on the power of attorney to authorize
tests and treatments. Without that power of attorney, you may be required
to file a Petition for Guardianship with the Probate Court in order to
obtain authority to direct treatment for your child.
While New Hampshire’s recently enacted Surrogate Decision Maker Law
makes it easier for families to manage under these circumstances, you
would be unable to rely on this law if your child attends college out of state.
HIPAA release will provide you with access to your child’s medical records –
a helpful tool in the day-to-day management of your child’s medical
care. This is an especially important consideration if your child has
a chronic health condition which requires recurring appointments and procedures.
The other estate planning document college-aged individuals should consider
executing is a
Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Affairs (DPOA). With a DPOA, your child can authorize you or other trusted adults
to act on his or her behalf for a wide range of activities, including
transferring money between checking and savings accounts; interacting
with financial aid officers; paying bills; and communicating with your
The beauty of a DPOA is that it can be as broad or as limited as you choose.
For example, if your child is planning to study abroad and will be unable
to execute lease documents to secure housing for the following semester,
a DPOA could authorize you to execute these documents on behalf of your
child. The DPOA can also be used to authorize your child’s school
to communicate with you on issues relative to financial aid and academic success.
A Health Care Power of Attorney, HIPAA Release and DPOA executed in New
Hampshire should be honored and accepted across state lines, but it is
always best to discuss your specific needs and plans with your attorney
to make sure that the documents prepared will serve the needs your college
student and your family.
The experienced attorneys at Shaheen & Gordon can answer your questions
and help you and your college student prepare for and navigate this new
phase of your lives. Contact us today.