HELP! My Child is 18 and Heading Off to College. Do We Have Everything in Place?

We have been present through college admission tests, college visits, scholarship applications, and the maze that is the high school years. Do we know everything we need to know?


Have we missed anything?

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After college admissions tests, college visits, scholarship applications, and the maze that is the high school years, my child has now chosen a college, we have come to terms with the cost, fall semester classes have been selected, living arrangements made known, and dorm shopping has begun. We have attended college planning, financial aid planning, and college admitted student sessions. But, do we know everything we need to know?

Once we come home and they are excitedly beginning their new adventure, do we have everything in place for this transition? What happens if my child becomes ill? What happens if my child needs help navigating or accessing financial documents while straddled between home (or at least what has been home!) and their college home? What if…?

After experiencing my daughter’s college decisions, high school graduation, and the start of her first college semester, below is a list I wish I would have had in front of me during her senior year, tasks we scrambled to complete the end of the summer before she headed off to her first college semester, and tasks we continued to finalize after her first semester because of said “scramble.” As an estate planning attorney and the mom of a first year college student, my hope is that this list eliminates, or at least reduces, the “summer scramble” for you and provides greater peace of mind as you arrive home from that first college drop-off.

Get Started Now. Here are the documents your college-bound student should have and why.

  1. Health Care Power of Attorney
    -Authorizes who can be notified of a health care crisis or access health care records (HIPAA - the health insurance and portability act - establishes privacy rights to prohibit disclosure of this information without a signed release, even if you are a parent!).
    -Authorizes parents (who no longer hold this right after a child turns 18), or other loved ones, the ability to assist in health care matters when necessary.

  2. Health Care Directive
    -Describes what health care decisions a young adult would like to be made if unable to express health care choices.

  3. Financial Power of Attorney
    -Authorizes who can manage financial matters when assistance is necessary.
    -Authorizes who can manage digital assets - which include all online accounts and digitally-created content - when assistance is necessary.

  4. Will
    -Addresses end-of-life considerations.

    If your child will be out-of-state, make sure the power of attorney documents also meet the signing requirements of the state where your child will be attending college.

Having these documents is great, but here’s what else your college-bound child should do — so the documents work!

  1. For Health Care:
    At Home
    -Have your child transfer their health care from the pediatrician’s office to an adult health care provider. File a copy of the health care power of attorney with this health care provider’s office.
    -Have your child consider giving proxy access to their MyChart or other digital health care accounts, to their designated health care agent.
    At the College
    -Check with the college health clinic: Do they have their own form for your college-bound child to sign? Is the clinic form consistent with the health care power of attorney document? File a copy of the health care power of attorney document with them.
    -Locate a local urgent care clinic near the college for after-hours health care: File a copy of the health care power of attorney document with them. Have your child check if their digital health care account from home will sync with the urgent care clinic, so there is access to prior medical history.
    -Get contact information for 3 people in your child’s college dorm, preferably their roommate, Resident Assistant or Hall Director, and one other friend. Also, make sure these contacts have emergency contact information for your child.
    -If your child is covered by your health insurance, make sure your child has and understands the health insurance card and health insurance information.

  2. For Financial Matters:
    At Home
    -Have your child check with the financial institution where they have an account: File the financial power of attorney document or complete the financial institutions’s specific power of attorney form (if this is required, make sure it is consistent with the general financial power of attorney document).

    -Have your child complete a digital asset inventory + utilize a password manager, so their designated financial agent can access digital accounts if necessary.

  3. For Educational Records:
    At the College
    -Have your child complete and submit to the college the FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) form to designate who has rights to their educational record (even if parents are paying for a child’s schooling, once the child is 18, they have the right to designate who has access to their educational record).

  4. And, this one’s extra, but … Encourage your child to register to Vote!

Have questions specific to your family situation? Reach Out.

Christal Hillstead