There is so much to prepare and pack before a child leaves for his or her first semester of college. Arguably, in the excitement of the preparation, many families overlook one of the most critical pieces of the plan – which is the answer to the question: what do we do if something happens to my child while at college?

Even though an adult student will forever be someone’s child, in the eyes of Texas law, he or she is now an adult. That means, it’s time to plan ahead to protect both student and family.

Regardless of whether the child is going to college, a young adult’s plan should include the following:

  • Medical Power of Attorney: This document allows a student to determine who will make healthcare decisions for him if he is unable to do so himself. It also allows the student to limit the authority granted, and can include a separate HIPAA Authorization.
    • Texas is one of five states that does not accept a simple form. Instead, Medical Powers of Attorney in this state must comply with a number of statutory requirements.
    • Authority vested through a Medical Power of Attorney only becomes effective when a physician determines that the student is unable to consent to his or her own treatment. A person may not use this document to make healthcare decisions for another, while the patient is still of sound mind.
  • Durable General Power of Attorney: This document allows another individual to access the student’s financial records, and to make financial decisions for him or her.
    • A springing Power of Attorney will only become effective if the student is declared to be incapacitated (similar to the Medical Power of Attorney, above).
    • A Power of Attorney that is drafted to be effective immediately will allow another individual access to financial records even without a finding of incapacity. This can be particularly helpful when a student will be studying abroad for a length of time.
  • Directive to Physicians/Living Will: This document allows an individual to express his or her preferences for end-of-life care. Certainly, we all hope that this is never needed for a young adult. However, ignoring these decisions results in family making decisions without specific knowledge of the patient’s wishes.

It is important to note Powers of Attorney and Directives to Physicians are governed by state law, and, accordingly vary from state to state. That said, some states will recognize properly-drafted documents from other jurisdictions. If your child is attending an out-of-state school, consider whether to execute documents for both Texas and the state in which the school is located.

Finally, most schools offer a FERPA Release Form, which allows parents (or other individuals) access to a student’s academic records. Academic records, under this statute, are defined to include such documents as academic transcripts, financial aid records and disciplinary records.

Contact Balmos Law today to develop a plan for your college student or young adult.