August 2018

Why Your College Student Needs a Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Proxy

If you have a son or daughter headed to college, there are some additional things you need to think about other than the roommates, tuition and supplies. Here are some tips on documents that should be put in place before your young adult heads off to college.

Ask the student to sign a durable power of attorney and a health care proxy. While these estate planning documents may seem more appropriate for older adults, here is why they are important for your college student. Without these documents in place, in most states, parents do not have the authority to make healthcare or financial decisions for their student once they turn 18. This is the case even if you are paying the tuition, still claim them as dependents on your taxes, and have them on your healthcare plan. A worst-case scenario is if your college student has a serious accident, you might need court approval to act on his or her behalf.

Many parents are surprised they don’t have access to their students medical records. According to CollegiateParent,, The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects the privacy of medical records. As soon as your child turns 18, you no longer have access to their medical information even if they’re still covered by your health insurance.

Health Care Power of Attorney
Sometimes called a health care proxy or health care agent authorizes someone to make medical decisions on the student’s behalf. It also gives access to medical records.

Durable Power of Attorney

This document appoints someone to act as an agent on behalf of the student for financial and legal matters.

Educational Records

Another surprise for parents is they do not have automatic access to their student’s grades. This is due to FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act which transfers control of educational records to a student once he or she turns 18 or heads to college. If the student wants to allow you to see their grades, typically colleges have a form called “Student Information Release Authorization”. Also, if your student is a dependent for tax purposes, the academic records may be disclosed to you with or without your student’s consent.

If you would like more information on how to put in place a durable power of attorney and a health care proxy, I am happy to answer any questions.

Karyn Vanderwarren I serve clients in the south and western suburbs and am happy to meet in a convenient location, be it my office, your office, or a location near you for your convenience.

If you are in need of legal assistance, please contact me at (708) 839-9622 or by email: or visit

Thank you for your business and support. We look forward to working with you and hearing from you if the need arises.


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