Estate Documents for College-Bound Children
It’s the middle of the night and your phone rings. You know nothing good comes from a middle-of-the- night phone call. You’re filled with dread as you pick up the phone. It’s your daughter’s college roommate giving you the heart-wrenching news that your daughter Nora has been rushed to the hospital. You hurriedly hang up and call the hospital. At last, you connect with a nurse familiar with Nora’s situation and you wait with bated breath to hear the news, any news. However, the nurse informs you that because Nora is an “adult,” they cannot share any information with you in light of HIPAA laws that serve to protect patient privacy. After begging the nurse for information to no avail, your mind is spinning; how could I have let this happen? What could I have done to prevent this?
If your son or daughter has reached the age of 18, HIPAA rules apply, and you may not be able to get the information you need—even if your child is still on your health insurance plan.
Ways to access important information
How do you avoid the stress of a sick or injured child and not having any information about their condition? As a parent, it could be one of your worst nightmares.
We recommend speaking to your attorney about drafting health care proxy and HIPAA authorization forms that are appropriate for your family’s specific needs. A health care proxy names someone to make health care decisions, while the HIPAA form allows for sharing of information otherwise not permitted under HIPAA privacy rules.
Your attorney may recommend a Durable Power of Attorney as well—this allows you to act for your child on financial matters should your child become incapacitated. In the event that your child is incapable of making financial decisions, a Durable Power of Attorney may give you access to pay bills, make investment decisions and file taxes on your child’s behalf. Each institution may require a separate form in addition to the drafted legal document.
The situation above is not only an issue for college-bound students, but also for your independent (or mostly independent) single adult children. While your child is working and has grown-up responsibilities, talk to them about setting up the documents discussed above. These documents should be reviewed and likely updated at least every five years, or even sooner if your child’s circumstances change.
My advice is to get these documents taken care of once your child turns 18—it will give you the peace of mind to send your child off on their own. If something were to happen, you’ll be in a better position to intervene and assist where needed. The pandemic has often left many of us feeling like we have very little control in our lives. Having prompt access to crucial health-related details in an emergency is one thing you can do to reduce stress in an already-stressful situation of a loved one who needs emergency medical attention.
Being a parent, you will likely never stop dreading the middle-of-the night phone call, but with the proper health care documents in place, you can rest easier knowing you won’t be denied access to the information you need regarding your child’s medical condition.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Abigail Rosen, MS Financial Planning
Abby is a Partner, Wealth Advisor in our Morristown, NJ, office. She is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional with over 17 years of experience in the financial industry. Prior to her career in finance, Abby was an officer in the United States Navy. Abby specializes in working with corporate executives to help them take full advantage of their available benefits, implement with respect to employer stock concentrations and manage their stock option strategies. She has a designation in Global Financial Planning. Previously, she served at legacy firm RegentAtlantic as a Wealth Advisor and Co-Head of the Corporate Executives Group.
She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the College of the Holy Cross and received a Master of Science (distinction) in Financial Planning from Bentley University. She was 2020 Citizen of the Year for her work as treasurer of the New Jersey Psychological Association Foundation and is treasurer of the Harding Township Educational Foundation (HTEF) and a Girl Scout troop leader.
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