Important Legal Documents to Protect Your College-Bound Children
As thousands of New Jersey parents and their college-bound children prepare for this exciting new experience, few are thinking about the legal documents that could help them continue to protect their children now that they are legally considered adults and on their own. Even for children who will be living at or close to home, it is a good idea to have these documents in place. Doing so can prevent hardship later on.
List of Vital Legal Documents For Your Child
If your college-aged child wants you to be able to make legal and medical decisions for him or her in times of emergency or to take care of financial and legal matters that arise at home, then he or she will have certain documents in place.
Your child will also have to sign a separate release to enable you to access his or her educational records.
These are the most important documents your child should have before leaving for college:
- Durable Power of Attorney;
- Advanced Directive for Health;
- HIPAA Release; and
- FERPA Release;
New Jersey Durable Power of Attorney
Your child can grant you the power to make legal and financial decisions on his or her behalf through a Durable Power of Attorney.
The following are a few examples of when you would benefit from having this document:
- Your child is ill and unable to take care of banking and other simple transactions.
- Your child is injured and important medical decisions must be made immediately.
- Your child is participating in a semester-abroad program, making it impractical
to do all that is necessary at home.
These are the types of transactions you might want to handle for your adult child who is away at school:
- renewal of a car registration or driver’s license;
- renewal of a passport;
- response to a summons for jury duty;
- opening or closing of a bank account;
- transfer of money from one account to another; and
- the payment of bills.
There is a lot of flexibility when drafting a New Jersey Durable Power of Attorney. Your child can grant broad powers or specify exactly which powers should be included.
These are important decisions that should be thoroughly discussed before the document is drafted. You may want to consult a New Jersey family law attorney to ensure that all your concerns are covered.
The New Jersey Durable Power of Attorney must be notarized.
Medical Decisions Are Not Covered!
The Durable Power of Attorney does not cover medical decisions. In order to protect your child in the event of a medical emergency, your child should sign a Proxy Directive giving you the right to make medical decisions in case he or she becomes unable to make them.
The Proxy Directive and the Instructive Directive are described in the following section: Advanced Directive for Health.
Advanced Directive for Health
The Advanced Directive for Health comprises both the Instructive Directive and the Proxy Directive. These documents must be either notarized or signed by two witnesses.
The Instructive Directive
An Instructive Directive allows an adult to state which medical procedures he or she would want to undergo in various situations.
The Proxy Directive
Because the Durable Power of Attorney does not cover medical issues, your child will have to sign a Proxy Directive that authorizes you to make health-care decisions If—and only if—he or she becomes incapacitated. In that case you would be permitted to make medical decisions on your child’s behalf.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, was created to protect the privacy of our medical records. When your child turns 18, then he or she has the same rights as any other adult. Health-care providers, insurance companies, and other medical personnel will be prohibited by law from sharing your child’s medical information unless your child has signed a HIPAA Release form stating that they may do so.
Like the New Jersey Durable Power of Attorney, the HIPAA Release form provides flexibility. Your child can stipulate any types of information not to be included; for example, drug or sex matters.
Unlike the Proxy Directive, the HIPAA Release will be in effect even if your child is not incapacitated.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was designed to protect the privacy of college students’ educational records. As this is a federal law, all colleges and universities in the United States are covered by it.
Unless your child signs a FERPA Release, you will not be authorized to receive files, documents, grades, or any other information about your child’s records from the institution. Whether or not you are paying the bills will be considered irrelevant!
Can You Protect Your Child?
Hard as it may be to comprehend, your little boy or girl is now considered an adult and, as such, is entitled to the same right to privacy as you! Nevertheless, as a concerned parent, you want to do all you can to protect your child! Having the correct documents in order can give both you and your child the peace of mind of knowing that if help is needed, you can provide it!
If your child will be attending college in a different state, be sure you have the proper documents for both New Jersey and that state! Also, if the school has its own forms, sign them and retain copies for yourself.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide legal advice. If you have a question about these legal documents or other family law issues, contact a qualified New Jersey attorney for advice.
Do you need help with these or any other legal documents? If so, the experienced New Jersey family law attorneys at Aretsky Law Group, P.C., can help. Call us 24/7 at 800-537-4154.