June 30, 2023

Don’t Let Your Child Leave for College Without These Documents

By Jennifer Fulton, Esq.

Summer is here, and our high school seniors have graduated, and are making their college introductory visits. When I attended my first introductory college visit with one of my children, the school gave me a sudden realization that colleges take the privacy rights of your sheltered young adult very seriously. Now that he or she is 18, your little darling is considered an adult (here in Florida, and in many other states), and the school will not give you information voluntarily. There is usually an election your child can make at the financial aid office so that you can figure out how much you owe to keep them enrolled in classes, and another form they can fill out if they decide to share their grades with you. That’s all well and good, but what about if they are seriously hurt or ill? There are a couple of forms that are not on the typical college website that you should consider having them prepare with an attorney before leaving for college. They are: a Durable Power of Attorney and a Designation of Health Care Surrogate.

The Durable Power of Attorney allows your 18-year-old to name an agent (perhaps . . . their parents) to act on their behalf. In Florida it is effective immediately and continues until they revoke it, a court guardianship is created, or at death. This allows the agent to take care of finances and non-health care-related actions that may be necessary on behalf of the principal. This could include withdrawing them from classes if they became sick or hurt, and cancelling housing and meal plans, or even signing them up for government benefits if necessary.

Another important document is the Designation of Health Care Surrogate. This document states in advance whom your college-bound child will name to make health care decisions for him or her if they are incapable of doing so themselves, and to obtain health care information. It should include HIPAA language or be used in conjunction with a separate HIPAA waiver. It also can include a Living Will, which would state their intention that they don’t want to receive life-prolonging services if they have a severe, end-stage health care issue from which they are not likely to recover. These documents are important for every incoming college Freshman.

Now that your child is an adult, it is a good time to review your documents as well. You may no longer need a named guardian in your will, and you may wish to make your child a fiduciary in your documents, or give him or her the right to receive your health information if you are in the hospital. Consider making an appointment with your local estate planning attorney and setting up an appointment for you and your college-bound child.

Jennifer L. Fulton, Esq. is an attorney at Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas LLP (“SSRGA”) (www.ssrga.com) focusing on Estate Planning, Probate, and Estate and Trust Administration. A member of the Florida Bar since 1996 with a Juris Doctor degree from Nova Southeastern University, Fulton works with clients to plan for the milestones of life (college, “adulting”, marriage, children, grandchildren, aging parents, pre- and post-divorce, loss of a spouse, aging, diminished mental capacity) and administration upon death. She can be reached at 561-769-5600 or jfulton@ssrga.com.