Back to School – The Importance of an Advance Directive for your College Bound Children

Stacey Fielding, Partner

It’s that time of year when everyone is putting together their back-to-school lists. Parents are dropping their kids off at colleges nationwide. Move-in day is preceded by weeks of planning and packing, but in all that preparation, most parents forget one of the most important planning items that should be on their lists—an advanced directive for their children, granting the parent access to their medical records and naming them as agent in the event of an unforeseen circumstance.

Many parents are surprised to find out that after their child reaches adulthood (in most states, at the age of 18) they no longer have access to any of their medical information absent a signed authorization. So even in cases where the child is completely dependent on the parent, the parent does not have the right to access the child’s medical records. Oftentimes this discovery comes too late on the heels of an emergency in which the parent is left with few, if any, viable options.

To address this issue, many parents plan ahead by having their college-bound children execute an advance directive. An advance directive typically includes two legal elements: a Health Care Proxy and a Living Will. The Health Care Proxy portion names one or more individuals who are authorized to obtain medical information relating to the signatory. This is the required language that will allow a parent to call a medical facility where their child is staying and obtain an update on the child’s status directly from his or her physician. Absent a valid health care proxy, the parent’s only option is to rely on the child to provide information directly. The Living Will portion of the document contains instructions for end-of-life medical decisions, most commonly in the event of an unforeseen emergency where the individual is unable to communicate his or her preferences. Although less likely to be relevant, this too is extremely important in the most severe cases where the child is unable to make medical decisions on his or her own behalf.

Executing an advance directive is a relatively simple process and is an investment in your child’s safety. There’s really no reason to delay implementing this important tool, especially when sending a child off to college.

The opinions expressed in this blog are not intended to create an attorney-client relationship and do not constitute legal advice. Neither the transmission of the information contained within this blog nor the use of the information or communication with A.Y. Strauss LLC creates an attorney-client relationship with A.Y. Strauss LLC.