Those of you sending your children off to college may be surprised and frustrated by the barriers that suddenly exist to receiving information about your fledgling adult making their way in the world. Now that they are 18, your little darling is considered an adult (here in Florida, and in many other states), and colleges are careful to protect their privacy rights. There is usually an election your child can make at the financial aid office so that you can figure out how much you owe to keep them enrolled in classes, and another form they can fill out if they decide to share their grades with you. That’s all well and good, but what about if they are seriously hurt or ill? This concern weighs heavier on parents’ minds this year, in light of COVID-19. There are a couple of forms that are not on the typical college website that you should consider having them prepare with an attorney before leaving for college. They are: a Durable Power of Attorney and a Designation of Health Care Surrogate.
The Durable Power of Attorney allows your 18-year old to name an agent (like, perhaps, their parents) to act on their behalf. In Florida it is effective immediately and continues until they revoke it, a court guardianship is created, or at death. This allows the agent to take care of finances and non-health care-related actions that may be necessary on behalf of the principal. This could include withdrawing from classes if they became sick or hurt, cancelling housing and meal plans, or even signing them up for government benefits if necessary.
Another important document is the Designation of Health Care Surrogate. This document states in advance whom your college-bound child will name to make health care decisions for him or her if they are incapable of doing so themselves, and to obtain health care information. It should include HIPAA language, or be used in conjunction with a separate HIPAA waiver. It also can include a Living Will, which would state their intention that they don’t want to receive life-prolonging services if they have a severe, end-stage health care issue from which they are not likely to recover.
These documents are important for every incoming college freshman, but perhaps especially so this year. So, as you are packing up your freshman’s supplies with masks and disinfectant wipes, consider also giving a call to your local estate planning attorney and setting up an appointment for your college-bound child.
Jennifer L. Fulton, Esq. is an of counsel attorney at Bresky Law (www.breskylegal.com) focusing on Estate Planning, Probate, and Estate and Trust Administration. A member of the Florida Bar since 1996 with a Juris Doctor degree from Nova Southeastern University, Fulton works with clients to plan for the milestones of life (college, “adulting”, marriage, children, grandchildren, aging parents, pre- and post-divorce, loss of a spouse, aging, diminished mental capacity) and administration upon death. She can be reached at 561-994-6273 or EstatePlanning@BreskyLegal.com.