College Countdown: What Every Parent Needs to Know

By Tom Orecchio, CFA®, CFP®, ChFC®, AIF®

Chief Executive Officer, Wealth Manager & Principal

June 26, 2020

My middle son is off to college at the end of this summer.  While this is not our first rodeo, I feel like in the face of the ongoing pandemic it’s even more important to make sure that critical protections are implemented.

Here are a few documents to consider as you tackle your to-do list for the college countdown:

Health Care Proxy:

While it seemed like just yesterday that he was running around in the backyard as a toddler, my son celebrated his 18th birthday recently and is now considered an adult. What does that mean? For one, it means that in most states he is legally able to enter into contracts and permitted to make their own health care decisions. For example, if he gets sick or injured severely and was incapacitated, his medical staff may not be able to provide me with any information or permit me to make any health care decisions for him. How can I make sure my wife and I are able to make decisions? We implemented a health care proxy which is a document authorizing someone to make medical decisions on the patient’s behalf.

HIPAA Release Form:

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects a child’s privacy from everyone – including his or her own parents! We ensured that our son has signed a HIPAA release form naming us as an authorized recipients of health information. Without such a form, you may not be able to get any information if your child is injured or sick.

FERPA waiver:

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibits an institution from sharing a student’s academic record with anyone unless the student has provided explicit authorization.  Most colleges will provide a waiver to provide additional individuals access to their records. If you’re paying for your child’s tuition, you may feel you have the right to see how they are doing in college.  Or perhaps you trust them and are fine with not knowing how they do?  Exploring the possibility of a waiver is personal choice. It is worth having potentially difficult conversations with your child now before college starts.

Durable Power of Attorney:

Did you know that the college is not required to share with you any of your child’s financial issues, even though you are paying all the tuition bills? Implementing a Durable Power of Attorney allows your child to appoint an agent, such as you, to manage his or her financial matters. This is another document that you may want to consider before your child heads off to school in the fall.

Review Insurance:

There are also insurance considerations you should be aware of. When your child is at school, depending upon their living arrangements you may need to add renter’s insurance for their school housing. Many kids live off campus their sophomore, junior, or senior year and you should make sure that your Property and Casualty Insurance extends to their living quarters. If your child is keeping a car on campus, you also should notify your auto insurance company.

I hope you find this to be informative.  We encourage you to have a conversation with your college bound child and consider these critical documents.  Please reach out to us and your attorney to learn more.

And congratulations to your recent high school graduate!

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