Sunday, August 15, 2010
As you help pack up the minifridge, laptop and extra-long twin sheets for your college freshman, you might consider a few other last-minute chores: ... Call your lawyer.
Sending a child off to college for the first time is wrenching enough, but a slew of conflicting rules and changing banking and health-care laws are making this year's move-in season more confusing than ever. And with college costs and student debt at record levels, it is all the more important for students—and their parents—to avoid the new financial traps cropping up on campuses these days, from debit cards to health insurance. ...
Even as parents foot the bill for health care, privacy laws restrict doctors, nurses and student health from sharing information without an adult student's permission. That is where the lawyer comes in.
After a few clients ran into difficulty getting information about adult children who were ill, Sheila Benninger, an attorney in Chapel Hill, N.C., began recommending that clients' children designate a health-care power of attorney after they turn 18 to identify who can speak for them if they can't.
She also includes a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, release form that allows patients to determine who can receive information about their medical care and whether information about treatment for substance abuse, mental health or sexually transmitted diseases can be disclosed.
You don't have to use a lawyer. Generic health-care power-of-attorney forms can be found online. If the school has a HIPAA release online, it's best to use that more-tailored document.
Parents should keep a copy in an email folder, where it can be easily accessed in an emergency. And students should designate a general power of attorney so someone can pay bills or handle other issues if they go abroad.
"Even if you end up never using these documents," Ms. Benninger says, they help young people "understand the obligations of adulthood."