It’s a parent’s worst nightmare — the late night call from the hospital telling you that your 18-year-old child has been in a severe auto accident and has been admitted to the hospital. As if the rush to the hospital isn’t bad enough, when you get to your child’s side, you may be told the hospital is not authorized to give you any medical information pertaining to your child’s condition. Unless your son or daughter has signed a HIPAA Authorization Form to release their medical information to you, the hospital will be prohibited from telling you anything about your child’s healthcare in these situations. While we don’t like to think about things like this, it is important to have safeguards in place.

Attorneys and parents strongly agree that it is crucial for children leaving for or returning to college to complete certain legal documents. Otherwise, parents will be unable to pay bills, apply for governmental benefits, break a lease, manage bank accounts, obtain medical information, speak to their child’s school, among many other things on their child’s behalf. Below is a breakdown of the documents your child should have when they go off to college to earn their degree:

  • HIPAA Authorization Form: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 is a federal law that restricts who can access an adult’s health information. In the scenario above, any nurse or doctor would be prohibited from telling you anything about your adult child’s medical treatment, condition, or status without a signed HIPAA Authorization Form. If your child loses consciousness or becomes incapacitated, the only other way to gain access to his or her medical information is to be appointed guardian by the court.
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney: The Healthcare Power of Attorney gives one the power to make medical decisions on your behalf. In the scenario above, if your child lost consciousness during the auto accident and now lays in the hospital, without sole guardianship you are unable to tell the doctors what course to take in the treatment. Setting up guardianship can be expensive and emotionally difficult, and so this particular document could be the difference between your child being conscious or in a vegetative state.
  • Durable Power of Attorney: Should the situation above ever occur, and your child become incapacitated, only a Durable Power of Attorney can give you the power to make financial decisions immediately on his or her behalf. The only other option is conservatorship, which must also be appointed by the probate court system, and can only be obtained after payment of court fees and attorney fees is executed, a thorough medical examination of the child is completed, and a span of time has passed.

Add these three simple documents to the summer to do list along with buying bacteria-free shower shoes, and your child will be in safer hands this school year. Once such documents are drafted, provide the original documents to your student’s university or local clinic, and keep a second copy at home in case the original cannot be found. Don’t risk the wait. Talk to an experienced attorney today at (614) 215-9934.