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Nothing Says Heading Back to College Like Legal Documents

When I would drive back to school in Ann Arbor each September, I was able to cram all of my stuff into my green AMC Matador. (Sweet ride.) My two, oversized stereo speakers took up most of the back seat. As I wandered off to college, neither my parents nor I considered the need to address possible legal issues involving potential health care treatment. It was a simpler time.

Today, we must consider the privacy protections in place that impact the ability of parents to access information about their adult children. Once children reach the age of 18, federal rules prohibit health care providers from sharing medical or financial records with their parents without consent. So if Junior ends up in the clinic due to questionable extra-curricular activities, his parents can't obtain any information about the situation.

Parents should have their adult children obtain the following documents, keeping in mind that state laws may differ:

  • HIPAA Release - Authorizes designated persons to receive otherwise private medical records.
  • Health Care Proxy - Designates a proxy to obtain information and make medical decisions if the individual lacks the capacity to do so.
  • Durable Power of Attorney - Authorizes an agent to manage finances and sign legal documents if the individual is deemed incapacitated.

These concerns apply to all adults, not just college students. I recently explained to a 30-year-old that his wife does not have the right to see his medical records. She needs his authorization.

It's incumbent upon all of us to prepare for such exigencies, no matter how long it's been since you've hung out around campus.

Words of Wisdom

Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education. -Mark Twain