My children are both graduating this year! My daughter is graduating from college and my son is graduating from high school. Soon my wife and I will be empty-nesters. As we launch my daughter into adulthood and prepare to send my son off to college, we are going through checklists of things “to do.” It is not all about furnishing dorm rooms and apartments. My kids each will be 1,000 miles in opposite directions. Although it is hard to believe, they are 18 and older, and therefore “legally” adults.
What happens when I want to check grades for my son next year? Federal law may prevent me from viewing my son’s grades without his permission. Since I’m paying the tuition, I want to make sure progress is being made on my investment. Now that he’s an “adult,” I will need a FERPA Release to make sure I can access his grades and get information from his college about his campus experience. While some schools have their own form, I’ve decided to prepare one that can be used at any institution. Check.
Heaven forbid, but what happens if one of my “adult” kids gets sick or is hospitalized? I’m their parent. The doctor or hospital will surely let me know what’s happening, right? No! I need a HIPAA Authorization so my kids’ health care providers can share health care information with me. Ugh! Add that to the College Student Checklist. (I’ve got a form for that!)
Tennessee has a solution for a Living Will, Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care, and HIPAA Release. Thankfully, I have had both of my kids sign an Advance Directive for Health Care which takes care of all these legal needs in one simple document. Phew, I’ve got that one covered. Why is that important? What happens if your child is in a car wreck and is unconscious? You don’t have authority anymore simply as a parent of an “adult” child to make healthcare decisions for your kid. An Advance Directive for Health Care allows your “adult” child to appoint someone to act on their behalf for healthcare issues and designate who can receive information about their health and care.
As the Bank of Dad, how will I handle financial issues for my kids while they are 1,000 miles away--each in different time zones from home? What if the real bank needs some paperwork completed by them to open or close an account? Hmmm. How long will it take to get them to sign and return the forms . . . ? They need a Durable Power of Attorney (for finances and property) so someone they appoint (me or Mom) can handle these matters on their behalf in their absence. This can be helpful at tax time, especially if your “adult” child is studying abroad and their tax return needs to be filed.
Okay, as parents we are destined to worry about things. (My mother would be worried if she didn’t have anything about which to worry). What if--God forbid--something happens to them. My kids have some minor assets, treasured objects, those Savings Bonds from Grandma. My father died unexpectedly without a will right after Thanksgiving of my college freshman year. It was a long and drawn out process to handle his meager “estate” and meanwhile bank fees eroded what little was left in his checking account. The only thing worse to losing a child would be to have a drawn out process forcing you to relive the horror. Maybe, my kids need a Will (some “adult” kids might even need a Living Trust).
This sending a kid to college and launching a child into adulthood is more complicated than just furnishing a dorm or apartment. Once your son or daughter turns 18, unless you have the appropriate paperwork, no medical facility, bank, credit card company, or credit union will talk to you, even if your child is still on your insurance plan. You have to be prepared!
Here are the four Student Essentials that all college students need before moving to their dorm rooms:
We can help you make this happen for your "adult" child, too. Check this off your list.
Davies Hood PLLC