When teenagers are getting ready to head off to college, their parents are probably thinking about such details as what college they will be attending, which courses they will take, and what needs to be purchased in preparation for the move if they will be living in on- or off-campus housing. While all of this is important, there are certain legal documents that should be in place in preparation for the teenager leaving home. Having teenagers sign these documents before college will protect them in the event of an emergency and will help to ensure that the parents have the legal authority to stay informed and make decisions on the teen’s behalf if necessary. Consider contacting a California estate planning attorney at Von Rock Law by calling (866) 720-0195 to discuss your questions about protecting your teenager at college.
Why You Need Legal Documents in Place Before College
Most people finish high school and head off to college at the age of 18. Under California Family Code Section 6500, a child becomes a legal adult at the age of majority, which is 18 years. Once a child becomes a legal adult, he or she becomes responsible for making financial and medical decisions. The teen’s parents no longer have the right to make decisions on their child’s behalf, regardless of whether the 18-year-old is living with them or being supported by them financially. This law serves to protect the rights of adults and provides them with the independence they deserve. However, in an emergency, this law can make it difficult for parents to step in and help their adult child if he or she is incapacitated or otherwise unable to make these decisions.
Documents Your Teenager Should Sign Before College
If your teenager is heading off to college soon or has already left for college, consider proactively securing the legal documentation needed to ensure that you have your child’s written consent to stay informed of healthcare and financial matters and to act on his or her behalf in the event of an accident or illness. An experienced California estate planning attorney at Von Rock Law may be able to help your teenagers sign these documents before college.
Power of Attorney
Many parents continue to manage some of their child’s financial matters after they go to college. This may include managing bank accounts, paying bills, and maintaining healthcare and other insurance policies. If this is the case, according to California Legislative Information, your child will need to sign a power of attorney authorizing you to act as his or her representative. There are three types of power of attorney in California:
- General power of attorney, which allows a representative to handle all financial matters on behalf of another person
- Limited power of attorney, which allows a representative to handle a specific matter on behalf of someone else
- Healthcare power of attorney, which allows a representative to make healthcare decisions on behalf of another person
A power of attorney can be durable, which means that it goes into effect as soon as it is signed. Another option is for the power of attorney to be “springing,” meaning that it takes effect under certain conditions as stated in the document.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is one of the strongest privacy protection laws. This act protects the privacy of student records held by public schools and local and state education agencies. Under FERPA, parents have the right to access their student’s education records until they reach the age of 18 or attend a school beyond high school. After that time, only the student has the right to access his or her educational records, and a parent who wishes to access a child’s education records must have a signed FERPA waiver.
A FERPA waiver form can be obtained from the school the student will be attending. A student’s signed FERPA waiver is kept on file by the college so that a parent’s right to access a student’s education records can be verified at any time. A parent should also keep copies of the signed waiver in case the college cannot access its copy for any reason.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects the privacy of individuals’ medical records and health information. After a child turns 18, HIPAA laws restrict parents from accessing their child’s medical records unless a valid HIPAA authorization exists. Also referred to as a HIPAA waiver or HIPAA release, this document can be signed by the teenager, giving the parent legal authorization to access medical records and health information. This is essential if the child becomes ill or injured, as it gives the parents the right to speak with their child’s medical providers about the child’s condition and treatment.
The teen will need to sign a HIPAA authorization for each healthcare provider, including the primary care doctor, dentist, and specialists, to ensure that the parents have the necessary authorization to be involved in their child’s healthcare. Most importantly, the teen should also sign a general HIPAA authorization to be kept on file by the parent. In an emergency situation, when the child may be under the care of different medical providers, a general HIPAA authorization can be presented to enable the parent to discuss the child’s health condition and treatment options.
What Is an Ideal Plan for College Aged Students With Minimal Estate Planning Considerations?
The experienced California estate planning attorneys at Von Rock Law offer a college care plan that will allow parents to still be able to act for their 18+ children for medical, financial and legal purposes, and to distribute the child’s assets should the child pre-decease the parent.
This plan includes a Durable Power of Attorney, an Advance Health Care Directive, HIPAA documents, and a Simple Will which identifies not more than two beneficiaries with outright inheritance.
Further, this plan includes a generic FERPA Consent Form that will authorize parents to communicate with a college regarding the student’s classes, transcripts, grades and more.
Many educational institutions will have their own forms for this Consent which may be required, but if not, the Von Rock Law standard form should be accepted.
This plan includes a 30-minute consultation and the cost of online notary fees arranged by the Von Rock Law office. Digital and paper copies of the plan documents will be provided.
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney Today
Sending your child off to college is a rite of passage both for your child and for you as a parent. While you want to give the freedom and independence your child deserves at this time in his or her life, you must also ensure that you have the necessary legal documentation in place for emergencies. Having your teenagers sign these documents before college will allow you to continue to manage their financial affairs, stay informed about their healthcare, and make decisions on their behalf if needed. California estate planning lawyers may be able to assist you and your teenager with this process. If you would like help understanding these documents and how they apply to your specific circumstances, consider contacting an experienced estate planning attorney at Von Rock Law by calling (866) 720-0195 to schedule a free consultation today.