It might be a normal parental instinct to think that your outbound college students is still a kid. But the fact is, if they’re 18, they’re adults, and keeping apprised of their medical, academic, and other records may require some back-and-forth.
“There’s a whole range of issues to look out for,” says Julie Day, an attorney with Culin, Sharp, Autry & Day, in Fairfax. She’s also a mother whose two children have graduated from college in the last few years, and she explained some things to watch out for — including a few she wished she’d realized when they set off.
“The bottom line is, once your child turns 18, they are in charge of their records, whether it’s collegiate, medical, estate planning, their decision making — they’re in charge of it,” Day says. “And so, in order for a parent to maintain any kind of extended window into their children’s legal and medical and collegiate lives, you’ve got to structure it by a series of little contracts, for lack of a better word.”
It’s not unusual for a parent who’s paying for a child’s education to want to be kept apprised of academic progress, but that’s going to require the student’s signature on a Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act waiver. “It’s easy to get ahold of,” Day says; “they may even have it downloadable on the registrar’s office website.”
Your now-adult child may not want to sign, Day says. “I had one who was not really wanting me to see his grades. But if they want you to continue paying for college, it’s kind of an important thing that you’d be able to see into what they’re doing.”
She adds that the waiver has other advantages besides the brute-force factor of continuing to pay for college. “It also makes things a lot easier if there’s any problem with registration,” Day says.
Both her kids were in college during the COVID-19 pandemic, “and that really wrecked the registration and documentation process,” she says. “So it actually helps my kids at some points to be able to call me and say, ‘I’m not getting anywhere with the adults at the college. Is there any way you can call?’”
The next important waiver concerns the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which governs medical records. Day’s children were able to continue seeing their pediatrician until they were 21, but while in college they also saw out-of-state practitioners, and being able to funnel records through Day made things much easier.
Her daughter, who just graduated in May, was happy to sign a HIPAA waiver so that Day could continue to manage her supply of EpiPens. It also makes things easier for parents if a catastrophic injury requires their care.
But the waiver opens up student records for everything. “You’ve got to really talk to your kids,” Day says. She told her daughter: “If I have this authorization, just in full disclosure, I can get into all your medical records. Are you comfortable with that?” Theoretically, she says, you and your child could draw up an agreement that covers certain medical records and not others, but it’s up to a doctor whether the doctor feels protected by that agreement.
Your children also may need an advanced directive, also known as a living will. “That’s hard to get college kids to really think about,” Day says, but it’s critical “if someone has to make life-or-death decisions.”
What You Might Forget
One thing Day wishes she had realized when her children, particularly her daughter, went off to college: If they have any standing medical appointments they need to keep going when they’re back home, make at least the first round of appointments now. Waiting until November to make an appointment for Thanksgiving week is not going to work, Day says, with the voice of experience.
Another thing Day hadn’t thought of in advance — a durable power of attorney. “That’s typically something we think about with husbands and wives needing to do their estate planning,” Day says, but it has advantages for college students. For one thing, it gives parents the right to access their child’s bank accounts, which was important for Day when her daughter was studying abroad and her son was overseas in the military, and neither of them could make deposits.
“You can put a time limit on it, Day says, to end when they turn 21 or when they graduate from college, but “it’s kind of a big thing.”
You’ll also want to check your homeowner’s insurance. Most policies cover your child’s belongings on campus, but you may need renter’s insurance if they move off-campus, which both of her children had to do during the pandemic. And if you bought your kid a car from a dealer, you’ll want to check with your insurance company to find out whether your college student can take it in for covered repairs.
Day spoke with her daughter before speaking with Northern Virginia Magazine and passed along some advice her daughter offered: “She said the big thing that she kept bumping into were items that she didn’t really consider something that I would not have access to.” For example, contact lens prescriptions are still considered medical issues rather than consumer transactions. “She had to file claims if there were any problems,” Day says. “There was nothing I could do to solve them for her.”
Feature image, stock.adobe.com
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