The supplies are purchased, the bags are packed and it’s time for kids to go back to school. But have you considered the legal planning you may need before sending kids off to college? From powers of attorney to privacy issues, there are a number of things you need to know about your rights when you leave your child on campus.

If your child is over 18, whether you believe it or not, they are an adult. This means that hospitals, doctors and medical providers no longer have to give parents information about a child’s treatment or condition. Similarly, banks, credit card companies, and student loan servicers will not give access to information unless the account is joint. And many parents are surprised to learn that, even though they pay the tuition bills, they have no rights to access their child’s educational records or talk to professors.

Even if your child is under 18, legal planning is still necessary. If college is not close to home, you may not be able to quickly get to a hospital if your child is sick or injured. Without a specific authorization to treat, your child may not be able to receive necessary medical treatment.

Luckily, there is a fairly easy solution to these issues – proper legal planning with powers of attorney.

Everyone over the age of 18 should execute a financial and a health care power of attorney, naming someone they trust (in this case, presumably parents) to make decisions if they cannot and to have access to information. Consider adding backups who may live closer to college, in the event parents are not available.

For access to educational information, a specific consent or release form is needed. Ask if the college or university has its own form. If not, the Department of Education has a sample FERPA release form available here:

For students who are not yet 18, parents can sign a health care power of attorney giving someone else authority to seek medical treatment or obtain information. Typically, these are signed when you leave your child with relatives for a week or two, but if there is a trusted friend or relative who is closer to the school your child attends than you are, it might be a good idea to provide them with a power of attorney, along with insurance and pertinent medical information.

Finally, even for those parents whose kids are not yet going off to college, as you fill out those emergency contact information forms at the beginning of the school year, you will likely be asked to name someone other than you or your spouse who is authorized to pick up your child, if necessary. Those individuals should also have a health care power of attorney for your child in the event that you cannot be reached in an emergency.

Call us at 574.232.3538 to schedule an appointment to set up powers of attorney for your children and dependents when you cannot be there to make important decisions about their care.

Disclaimer: The THK Legal Blog is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. In no case does the published material constitute an exhaustive legal study, and applicability to a particular situation depends upon an investigation of specific facts. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.