Legal Documents for Your College Checklist

While shopping for extra-long twin sheets and plush mattress pads for your soon-to-be college freshman, consider adding these items to your checklist:

  1. Financial Power of Attorney (POA)
  2. Medical Power of Attorney (MPOA)
  3. Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA) Authorization

You are probably wondering why your barely-an-adult child needs these documents. Most high school grads have already turned or are about to turn eighteen. When a child turns eighteen, he or she becomes a legal adult. The law considers adult children capable of making their own decisions and permits them full legal privacy. Your rights as legal guardian have ended.

This new legal independence can create hurdles for you and your ability to provide assistance to your adult child. For example, imagine if your child needs medical attention but the doctor refuses to speak to you about your child’s condition because of HIPAA concerns. With a HIPAA authorization, the doctor is allowed to inform you of your child’s condition. Furthermore, what if there are immediate medical decisions that need to be made, but your child is unconscious? If you are the appointed agent under a Medical Power of Attorney, you are able to make those critical and important medical decisions. These documents can be a part of the ultimate care package for your newly-minted young adult.      

Financial Power of Attorney

The first document to add to your college student’s shopping cart is the financial power of attorney (“POA”). In a POA, the principal (your child) appoints an agent (you) to make financial and related decisions or actions on behalf of him or her in the event of need. For example, the POA gives you the authority to continue signing for your child for banking and tax purposes.

Medical Power of Attorney

An MPOA appoints an agent to make medical related decisions on behalf of or for the principal.

HIPAA Authorization

A HIPAA authorization permits doctors and healthcare providers to share health information with a list of individuals authorized by the principal. Otherwise, HIPAA law generally prohibits medical personnel from discussing your adult child’s health information with you.  

Customization Options

Each document can be customized to fit your child’s needs. The powers and decisions given to an agent under the POA and MPOA can be as broad or as limited as the principal specifies. For example, the power to handle tax matters can be granted under the POA while the power to handle digital assets and the content of electronic communications can be withheld. Under the HIPAA authorization, the information authorized to be provided to individuals can be as limited as the principal prefers. Each one of these documents can be drafted to be effective only for a certain period of time, such as for the four years of your child’s college career.

There are countless scenarios in which these documents can be of great help during your child’s journey through adulthood. Without these documents, you may be denied the ability to help your child and be forced to get court approval when time is of the essence. The estate planning attorneys at Farrow-Gillespie Heath Witter LLP can help you check these important documents off your to-do list at an affordable fixed fee. Please contact us for further information.


Amanda Brenner | Farrow-Gillespie & Heath LLP | Estate Planning

Attorney Amanda Brenner’s primary practice areas are estate planning, business formations, and nonprofit organizations. Ms. Brenner graduated from University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 2015.

Copyright 2018 Farrow-Gillespie Heath Witter LLP