Swine Flu Preparation: Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives for College Students

With school in full swing and parents of college-age children becoming empty-nesters again, one important estate planning question comes to mind: can you as a parent get medical information about your college-age child in the event of an emergency? This concern is especially relevant this year as concerns about swine flu (H1N1 virus) are widespread.

Once a child turns 18, parents generally no longer have legal authority over their child’s financial or medical decisions, even though high-school and college-age children usually are still dependent on their parents.

Moreover, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) imposes high standards of patient privacy on hospitals, physicians and other health care providers. Because of this, many medical providers will not provide any medical information to anyone without the authority of the patient.

One solution is for parents to ask their college-age children to sign a power of attorney and health care directive. These routinely prepared estate planning documents authorize the parents to obtain medical information and make medical and financial decisions for a child if the child is unable to make such decisions for himself or herself. By keeping copies (or, better yet, electronic copies) of these documents readily available, parents will be better prepared to respond in case of an emergency involving the child.

As the law continues to evolve on these matters, please note that this article is current as of date and time of publication and may not reflect subsequent developments. The content and interpretation of the issues addressed herein is subject to change. Cole Schotz P.C. disclaims any and all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents of this publication to the fullest extent permitted by law. This is for general informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Do not act or refrain from acting upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining legal, financial and tax advice. For further information, please do not hesitate to reach out to your firm contact or to any of the attorneys listed in this publication.

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