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Off to college: Add legal documents to the list of things they need.

There's so much to think about when a child reaches age 18 or goes off to college. You worry about your child having huge student loans, whether the roommate will make fun of the color of the comforter you chose, if they'll party instead of studying.

But did you ever give a second thought to having them do a Power of Attorney for Health Care? Or signing a HIPAA release, authorizing you to access your child's medical information? Maybe you should.

In today's world, many people are concerned about their personal privacy and the amount of information that others can access about them. So we have laws that help protect us. But there are inconveniences that come along with those rules.

  • Want to know your child's college grades? You may need their permission, via a signed FERPA waiver. FERPA is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. You can read an overview of the law on the US Department of Education's website. Ask your child's college for a FERPA waiver form.
  • Are you concerned about your child's health? In order to receive medical information, you may need to show a release that conforms to the Health Information Privacy and Portability Act (HIPAA). Your child's healthcare provider or your attorney may be able to provide a form that your child can sign to give you the authority to see their records.
  • Will a paramedic, emergency room worker, or police officer know who to call if your child is injured or unconscious? Make sure you're entered in their cell phone under "ICE" for "In Case of Emergency." Whenever I call my husband, I see "ICE" before his name on the display. I'm so glad I spent 60 seconds to do that. Now I need to check that I'm in his phone under ICE!

Perhaps an even bigger issue is, Who will make healthcare decisions for your child if he is unable to speak for himself? A Healthcare Power of Attorney is the tool you need here. You can download state-specific healthcare POAs from Caring Connections.

Other than FERPA, any adult needs to think about these same questions. If your partner or spouse become seriously ill, will her doctor release medical information to you? Will her healthcare insurance talk to you about her medical claims? Particularly for single persons or those who don't have a marriage certificate, think about who would be able to make medical decisions for you or your partner.

Do yourself and your loved ones a favor. Take these steps now.

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