Why College Students Should Sign a Health Care Proxy and Power of Attorney

college health care proxy and power of attorney

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects the privacy of medical records and information. Doctors and medical facilities are not permitted to disclose any information about patients without permission. Generally, parents will be able to obtain medical information about a minor child, but once that child turns 18, their access to this information is not guaranteed. As a result, if you are the parent of a college student over the age of 18 who gets injured or becomes ill, you may have difficulty obtaining medical information or helping with medical decisions.

To avoid these problems, you should request that your college-aged children execute a series of documents that allow you to access medical records, make decisions, and/or take legal or financial action if your child becomes incapacitated.

Health Care Proxy

The first document that your child should execute is the health care proxy, which names a person to act on behalf of your child to give consent to medical procedures, make healthcare decisions, and discuss treatment options if he/she becomes incapacitated. As the health care proxy, you will be permitted to stand in the shoes of your child to make decisions about their care and treatment.

Along with the health care proxy, it is a good idea to have your child execute a living will or advance health care directive also. A living will expresses the student’s wishes about whether to receive life-saving medical treatment such as resuscitation, tube feeding, and more in the event of a serious medical event. The living will is typically signed at the same time as the health care proxy, and is meant to help guide you, as the health care proxy, to make decisions in accordance with your child’s wishes.

Power of Attorney

Although the healthcare proxy will allow you to receive information and make decisions about your child’s medical care and treatment, another document—a power of attorney—is needed to allow you to make financial and legal decisions or take other necessary actions during the child’s incapacitation. For example, the power of attorney can give you the ability to access and manage your child’s bank accounts, obtain other financial records, and/or sign legal documents on your child’s behalf. 

The power of attorney can become effective at the time of signing, or it can be triggered by a specific event, such as the incapacity of the child, but such conditions may require a medical opinion and intervention of a court to establish the child’s incapacity, which could result in delays at a time when action needs to be taken swiftly.

HIPAA Medical Release

While a health care proxy and power of attorney are helpful in special, they won’t be helpful for keeping you apprised of basic medical treatments and/or provide access to medical records.

When your adult child receives treatment with a doctor or at a medical facility, they will usually be asked to sign a HIPAA medical release form which designates specific individuals who may have access to their medical information or records. But these forms can also be completed by your child in advance, and designate you to receive their medical information and/or to discuss their medical care.

Although typically prepared by an estate planning attorney, the health care proxy, living will, and power of attorney are not just for the elderly. If your child is in the midst of submitting college applications, now is a great time for you to get help from a qualified attorney who can help prepare the appropriate documents for you and your child’s review and signature. Make preparation for your child’s future about more than just his or her education.

Each state has its own requirements for these documents, so you’ll want to consult with a qualified lawyer in your state in preparing them. Use our site to quickly and easily find an estate planning lawyer who can help ensure that you can care for your child’s legal, financial, and medical needs should an injury or illness occur.

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Posted - 10/04/2017