Once a parent comes to grips with the fact that a child is leaving the proverbial nest, there is little that can be done…or is there? If you are the type of person that wholly rejects the platitudes levelled at parents, especially at this stage of the game, you’re probably inclined to find a smart alternative to just “letting go”. Rather than leave it all in a new college student’s hands or place all hope in the Emergency Contact section of some application being properly filled out, you owe it to your conscience to look into executing a Health Care Proxy/Declaration, as well as a Durable Financial Power of Attorney. These legal documents will simultaneously ease your mind and appeal to the newfound adult sensibilities of your offspring.
Do not mess with HIPAA. It is against the law. What is HIPAA, you ask? The Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act has been the healthcare’s guiding light since 1996, when it comes to the safekeeping, privacy and protection of personal health information. As hard as it is to argue with that, it will most definitely keep you from finding out the condition of your son or daughter should they sustain an injury or end up in the emergency room. Granted, only a fool would get in your way if you were there in person but this is just what you feared, isn’t it? Your baby is hurt and you are not there to make it all better. What if there was a document that altered your status from ‘parent’ to ‘health agent’ and your child could appoint you to make medical decisions on their behalf if they are unable to make them or communicate them for themselves? Even if you do decide to hop on a plane or drive straight on through to that college, a Healthcare Proxy or Declaration may just save the life of whatever hospital staff member draws the unfortunate task of telling you that they cannot tell you anything about your kid’s condition. The power lies in your hands. You may feel that someone else, such as your spouse, is better suited for making medical decisions and interacting with physicians. Just have your grown-up boy or girl make that clear when declaring a healthcare proxy. The last thing he or she needs in a health emergency is family members arguing. Furthermore, divorce happens and families change. So do plenty of other vital details. Have that form updated every three to five years if possible.
DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY
Hopefully, any adult lessons regarding healthcare won’t hit your eighteen year old as hard as those that have to do with money. The good news is that you can prepare them by teaching them about executing a financial Durable Power Of Attorney. Here’s a quick thought regarding comfort level: if your son or daughter is incapacitated, the court will appoint a conservator to manage their finances. How comfortable are you with being replaced by a conservator? I didn’t think so. Even an eighteen year old, with whatever financial intelligence he or she has gathered to date, will most likely find great discomfort with the notion. Teaching a young adult about the countless recipes made with Ramen Noodles has its merits. Make jokes about poverty and college life all you want. Guess who’s responsible for federal and state income tax returns? If you guessed “the same person whose signature is required on financial aid paperwork”, you would be correct. You’ve been there. Now that your child is also there, grant them the security you may not have had. Dorm life may only be their first great adventure. Just be ready for that talk about studying abroad in Southeast Asia. Be certain that if someone must make financial decisions, it is you or someone equally trusted by your son or daughter.