Really? My College-Aged Kids Need Legal Documents?

Jun 2021

With high school graduation upon us, many parents suddenly realize they now have 18-year-old “children” who are heading off to college or starting their first job.  As legal adults, these 18-year-olds need to have certain legal documents completed in order for parents to provide support regarding medical care and other substantial decisions.

As a parent, one of the most important things we do is oversee our child’s medical care. Unfortunately, once they reach age 18, doctors and hospitals cannot share any medical information regarding the child with the parent.  So, while the parent may still be paying for the medical care, they are no longer privy to information such as the prognosis for the child’s health condition, or even what tests they may have had.  This can especially be an issue when a child goes away to college and the parent may have to communicate with a hospital facility far from home.

So, what legal documents do you need? If you have children over 18, you will need to have them sign a HIPAA form to provide you with access to their medical records and even talk to their doctor about their medical care.  (FYI: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) is a medical privacy law to safeguard one’s medical information.)

We also recommend that the 18-year old establishes a medical directive or medical power of attorney appointing their parent(s) as their patient advocate.  When you are unable to make your own medical decisions, a patient advocate steps into your shoes and makes medical decisions for you.  For example, you may not be able to make medical decisions due to various circumstances, like in the middle of a medical procedure.

If the 18-year old is attending college, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is designed to provide privacy for student records once they reach age 18.  However, the student can fill out a FERPA form to grant consent for their parents to have access to their educational records, such as grades.

The FERPA documents are available from the college or university where your child attends.  HIPPA and Durable Power of Attorney/Medical Directive forms are available for download from our website at

As your child transitions into adulthood and attends college or joins the workforce, it is critical to obtain legal documents for your child to appoint you to act on their behalf. Remember, it is always important to expect the best, but be prepared for the worst.

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