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Besides Top Ramen, there are two essential legal documents your high school graduate needs to have in place.

Two Key Legal Documents

It may be hard to believe your child heading off to college really is an adult, but they’ve officially crossed that threshold into adulthood.  It’s an exciting time.  And it’s a very legally vulnerable time because now your child does not have a default backup for important medical and financial decisions the way you and your spouse do.  Even between spouses though, I think every adult should have these two key legal documents.

Health Care

Your child’s medical information is legally protected, and it may be difficult or even illegal for medical providers to share information with you in case something happens to your child. When congress passed The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act in 1996 (HIPAA) one of their goals was to protect patient privacy.  Because the penalties for violating the rule can be steep, doctors and hospital administrators are very cautious when releasing medical information.  As a parent that can present a very frustrating and frightening situation in a hospital emergency room.  Your child may not be in a position to give consent, and you don’t have time to go get a court order (an “emergency” action by the court could still take a week or more for a “temporary” order) not to mention the cost of filing fees and attorney assistance. To avoid all of that, your child (now adult) should prepare an Advance Health Care Directive to appoint the person they want to represent them if they are unable to speak for themselves.

Finances

The second document is called a Durable Power of Attorney, and it gives the appointed agent the ability to handle all financial matters.  While most college age children don’t have a lot to manage, the Power of Attorney can be a good safeguard against a potentially devastating impact of an event that leaves them incapacitated.  Imagine a car accident has left your child incapacitated – can you step in and handle all the important legal and financial matters that will ensue?

It can save you thousands by avoiding the need to obtain a conservatorship of the estate. You may think, well, my child just has a small bank account, what is the big deal?  The big deal is everything that is not in a bank account: handling insurance claims, lawsuits, lawyers, lenders, and the IRS.  Your bank paperwork won’t help with any of those people – you’ll need a conservatorship or a power of attorney to act on your child’s behalf.

So, in between all the notebooks and highlighters, slip two important legal documents.  Welcome to the adult world, kid.

 

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