Some of you have already had your children or grandchildren head off to college. With that, comes all kinds of things your child(ren) and you must deal with.
As parents and grandparents, we must deal with emotional issues such as letting go and potentially acknowledging they are no longer children. We hope they know the basics of cleaning, cooking, and laundry. We also hope they have learned the importance of how to study, make sound decisions, and stay safe.
These are all key issues: if the student lacks all those skills today, they had better learn them quickly.
I am still lacking in a number of skills I should have learned when in college. You will still find me putting a load of laundry in the washing machine without sorting colors, fabrics, towels, sheets, etc. One thing I have learned is putting a new red shirt into the washer with the other clothes will, in some cases (all right, most cases), have a less-than-desirable outcome.
You are now four paragraphs into this note, and you may be asking yourself, what are Jeff’s qualifications for giving advice on taking your child off to college, much less laundry? To answer your question directly – limited to none. I can share with you my experiences going off to school and my experiences taking my two daughters off to college. The thing is, I was totally unprepared on both accounts.
What I am qualified to share with you are key items that you will be glad you have in place during the next 1, 3, 5 – who knows the number of years.
Why will the information I am about to share with you be valuable? For many people, you may be helping or paying tuition, you may want to know how your child is doing academically, maybe how they are spending the money you send them, and you may need to know what is going on with your child medically. All these things and more will no longer be available to you unless you have taken steps to allow you access. You see, your children (18 or older) are, by law, now classified as adults and the information you may want, or need has been shut off.
So, what should you have and how do you get it?
- For access to healthcare information on your child should they become sick or injured:
- A Universal HIPPA release form
- To be able to supply guidance about the care your child may be receiving:
- A Healthcare Proxy also known as a Healthcare Power of Attorney
- To understand what your child desires medically in a critical situation:
- A living will
- Should you need to get involved in their financial life to keep them from crashing and burning:
- A durable power of attorney for finances
- Health Insurance
- In many cases the student may leave their parent’s health insurance for the group plan offered by the school. If this is the case, make sure you have access to ensure premiums are paid and you are aware of what the health plan covers and doesn’t cover.
- A FERPA waiver (it is a real thing)
- This document will allow you to have access to your child’s grades. It is available through the school they are attending.
I used an article from the Wall Street Journal dated August 14th as a template for these six documents. If you would like a copy of the article, please let me know.
As a bonus, I encourage you to reread this note but instead of student or child insert “parent.” Although it is unlikely you will need the FERPA waiver – everything else is applicable and important.
A hospital is under no obligation to share medical information with the child of a parent unless prior authorization is in place.
Without a healthcare proxy, being able to give instructions as to how a person would like their healthcare may be problematic. A living will instruct the hospital on the type of care you desire should you not be able to speak for yourself. I had a health scare a few months ago. I didn’t realize how relevant and important the questions from the nurse were as to whether I have a healthcare directive on file and whether I want a DNR (Do not resuscitate) designation.
That durable power of attorney for finances will allow someone who may not have access to your checkbook to pay bills and keep your household running should you not be able to.
Health insurance – know what you have in the way of benefits should you have a group plan and make sure you have a Medicare plan that meets your needs when you become eligible.
Fall is just a few days away. It is time to acknowledge that summer is coming to an end, and it is time we reengage with the world. Call me or send me a note if you would like help with implementing some or all of these items. I am not an attorney or an accountant, so please – seek professional guidance when you believe it is necessary.
My parting thought is that it is much easier to do something right the first time than to try and fix it the second time.
Warmest regards and wishing you the Good Life,