With the end of another school year, thousands of families across Florida and New Jersey are preparing to send their children off to college. It is an exciting time for students and there are many things to think about. With all this excitement it is easy to overlook some other matters that I think are very important for parents and students to consider – legal documents that every college student needs. I typically work with a highly skilled Estate Planning attorney to help prepare some of these documents. With that said, here are four important documents every college student needs before heading off to school.
1. Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney is a legal document that allows your college-aged child to permit parents to make legal and financial decisions on their child’s behalf. Aside from the obvious assistance it provides if your child is in a situation where they cannot make decisions (hospitalized, etc.), with the costs so high for college students, parents many times assist with checking or savings accounts for their children. A durable power of attorney can assist with this arrangement. There are various ways to draft this type of document and to set forth its authority and scope.
2. Designation of Health Care Surrogate and Living Will
A Designation of Health Care Surrogate and a Living Will are documents where a student over the age of 18 designates an agent to make various types of health care decisions, as if they were the student. Why is this important? Because without it the parent of a student who is over 18 may not be able to make medical decisions regarding their child.
3. HIPAA Release
HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and it is designed to protect a person’s medical information. When a child lived at home and was under 18-years-old, his or her parents were automatically entitled to this information. However, once your child became an adult in the eyes of the law, their personal health information is now protected – including being protected from their own parents. A HIPAA release should go hand-in-hand with the Designation of Health Care Surrogate and a Living Will and should name the parent as an authorized person to have your child’s medical records shared with. Again, you do not want to be in a situation where your college-aged child gets hospitalized while away at school and the doctors/hospital will not speak to you, let alone let you look at your child’s medical records.
4. FERPA Release
FERPA is a federal law and stands for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The law protects the privacy of student education records. Under the law, education records are defined as records, files, documents, and other materials that contain information directly related to a student and are maintained by the educational institution or by a person acting on behalf of the institution. Virtually all colleges and universities are subject to FERPA. Although I could write a series of posts about FERPA, an “education record” has been defined to include things like: grades; a student’s schedule of classes; disciplinary records; and, the student’s financial and aid records.When the student reaches the age of 18 or begins to attend a post-secondary institution (college) regardless of age, all rights become the students. This also would apply to parents of a high school student enrolled in a duel curriculum course where their child is taking college classes at a local college. Even though the child may be under 18, FERPA would still apply. What all of this means is that mom and dad could not get their own child’s student records. Having an executed FERPA release, authorizing the school to be able to release information and records to the student’s parents, would avoid this. Preparation of a general FERPA release is something that my office can do for very little cost.Obviously no one hopes to have to use documents like these. However, having these simple yet effective documents prepared before your child goes off to college not only makes sense, but can provide a sense of assurance and peace of mind.Richard Asselta is an education law lawyer and the founder of Asselta Law, PA, with offices in Florida and New Jersey. Asselta Law concentrates on Education and School Law, as well as Appeals. Mr. Asselta was the attorney for a large public school district for several years. He draws upon the knowledge gained from the other side of the table to work with teachers and students on legal issues in all education settings. Asselta Law represents clients throughout Florida and New Jersey. Contact us today for a free consultation with a knowledgeable education law lawyer. Credit cards accepted. Affordable payment plans available.