You have watched your child change over the past year as he or she finished high school and prepared to leave for college. Your child is still your baby, but you understand that even more changes are ahead. Once you drive away from campus, you will have to trust that your hard work will pay off with your son or daughter making good choices and taking prudent actions.
However, the fact that you will no longer be making decisions for your child has another side. If your child is 18 or older, the law considers him or her to be an adult. If an unforeseen event leaves your child unable to express his or her wishes, you may have a difficult time obtaining the authority to act on your child's behalf.
Continue protecting your child
It may seem farfetched, but accidents and illnesses occur on college campuses all the time. If your child becomes ill or injured and cannot speak, by law, you may not have the authority to make critical medical, financial or legal decisions for your child. You may have to spend precious time seeking a court order. This is why it is important that your child have certain legal documents in place before going off to school, including the following:
- A HIPAA authorization: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act protects patient privacy, but by signing a HIPAA form, you child grants permission for medical professionals to inform you of his or her condition.
- Health care power of attorney: By naming you as health care proxy, your child authorizes you to make medical decisions if he or she is unable to communicate.
- Advance directive: Difficult as it may be to consider, you child can make clear his or her wishes for extraordinary measures or other care, such as whether your child wants to be on life support or use a feeding tube.
- Durable power of attorney: If your child cannot manage his or her financial or legal matters, such as paying bills, filing tax returns or renewing vehicle registration, you can take over these tasks with a power of attorney designation.
The durable power of attorney is also helpful if your child plans to study overseas. You can manage your child's affairs during that time but only with legal authority to do so.
Your child is an adult now, and unless he or she is married, there may be no one else looking out for these matters. Visiting a Pennsylvania attorney and having these documents in place can provide you with peace of mind that you can still take care of your child.