Important Documents to Consider Before Your Child Goes to College

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Your child’s transition to adulthood is an important time in life. If your child has reached age 18, particularly an adult child traveling to attend school or work, critical legal changes have occurred. At age 18, your child is an adult under New Jersey law, even if they are still living at home. Your adult child now controls their own medical and financial decisions, and a parent’s access to information is restricted. Several documents are available to address these changes and appoint agents to assist your child during this stage of life.

A Power of Attorney appoints agents to help with financial and legal decisions – particularly in the event of incapacity. For this reason, the Power of Attorney must be appropriately drafted. For example, a Power of Attorney needs to avoid terms that cause unnecessary delays or restrictions on the agent’s authority to act. Children pursuing higher education should also consider the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA is a federal law that protects the privacy of student educational records and can restrict access to this information. Your child can include FERPA related terms in a Power of Attorney, as well as signing a FERPA release with your child’s educational institution.

A Power of Attorney for Healthcare designates healthcare agents who are best suited to make healthcare-related decisions. The healthcare agent’s authority should include the type of treatment, control over medical staff, choice of healthcare facilities, and pain management. In addition to the Power of Attorney for Healthcare, a separate release under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) may also be helpful. A HIPAA Release will assist with access to important medical information from healthcare providers if the need arises.

Finally, adult children should also have a Will in the unlikely event that it is needed. A Will can be completed at the same time as other estate planning documents.

Whether your child is leaving home or staying with you, these documents will make you and your child better equipped to handle unforeseen circumstances or an emergency. As your child enters this new stage in life, these documents can give parents added peace of mind. If your child is approaching age 18 or is already over 18, now is a good time to discuss these documents with your child and the problems that can arise if they are not implemented.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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