No one wants to think about what might happen to their college-bound kids in an emergency. Despite this, all parents should have a plan in place in the unlikely event they will need to make medical or financial decisions on behalf of their college-student children.
There are a few very simple and often overlooked steps parents and guardians can take to ensure they are legally authorized to act for their children in the event of an emergency:
Have their child execute a Designation of Healthcare Surrogate document enabling them to make health care decisions in the event of an emergency;
Ensure they are given designated access to their child’s health records through a HIPAA release;
Have their child permit access to their financial information through a financial Durable Power of Attorney;
List themselves as ICE (In Case of Emergency) contacts on their children’s cellphones.
Once college students reach the age of majority (usually 18) and are legally considered adults, parents are no longer entitled to make medical and financial decisions on their behalf. Once a child turns 18, they also have a legal right to privacy. Discussions on how to act on your children’s behalf in the case of an emergency are some of the most important conversations a parent can have with a child when they are ready to leave the nest.
Designation of Healthcare Surrogate/HIPAA release: This document authorizes a parent, other relative, or trusted family friend, to serve as the individual’s health care agent. It gives the agent the authority to make medical care decisions and access medical records for a person should they become incapacitated. Under Florida law, an individual may name a single person or may have multiple surrogates act jointly. A HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) release naming your surrogates should be included to ensure medical practitioners have permission to share information with those named on it. Ideally, you should include your health care surrogate’s phone numbers and contact information and give a copy of the health care proxy to the student’s primary care physician and named health care agents. If possible, have a signed electronic copy available to be emailed to any emergency room.
Financial Durable Power of Attorney: A durable power of attorney is a document by which someone gives access to their financial information to a specific person, who is called the “named attorney in fact.” Durable means the power of attorney is not revoked if the individual who granted it becomes disabled or incapacitated. The financial durable power of attorney is useful for students in an emergency to give their parents access to financial college records and banking information, and to enable them to access or pay credit card bills and deal with financial responsibilities. Durable power of attorney can be given to more than one person at a time. If the student is designating more than one person (i.e. both parents), the document should state whether either of them can act independently or if both must act together. Durable power of attorney may be revoked at any time. All powers of attorney (durable and nondurable) are revoked at death.
ICE (In Case of Emergency) contacts: Adding ICE contacts to your cellphone allows first responders to get in touch with emergency contacts if you are incapacitated and can’t communicate. Being an ICE contact does not give you any legal authority to act, but it does begin the communication process. A legal document like those listed above are needed to give a designated agent legal authority.
It is important to have a plan in place in the event of accidents or emergency. Anticipating and being prepared for emergencies will give some peace of mind to both parents and students. Think of it as essential as insurance; you hope you will never need it, but it is reassuring to know the structure is in place if an emergency arises. Here at the Kendrick Law Group, Sarah Geltz, Esq. is able to help you prepare any documents you may need for your college-bound child.