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There are a few legal and financial issues that should be addressed before your son or daughter goes off to college. If your child has turned or will turn 18 during the next year, she is legally an adult, and you, her parent, lose the legal authority to make decisions on her behalf. That means that you have no legal right to see her grades, to manage her finances (although you remain responsible for paying her college tuition), or to make medical decisions or speak with her doctor. So, before she goes off to college, consider asking her to sign some documents that will keep you informed.
- FERPA release: with your child’s permission, you can speak with the college about her performance. Colleges often have their own FERPA release forms, so ask your student’s college for a copy.
- HIPAA Authorization: allows you to access your child’s health records and speak to her doctors about medical issues.
- Advance Care Directive for Health Care: allows you to act on your adult child’s behalf in the event that she is incapacitated and unable to make decisions for herself.
- Durable Power of Attorney: allows you to act on your adult child’s behalf regarding legal or financial matters.
You can get the previous three forms from your family lawyer. Each of these forms can be revoked at any time, but having them in place while your child is away at college may provide the whole family with extra peace of mind.
This is also a good time to address money management issues.
- Set up a bank account that will allow you to easily transfer money to her account. An online bank account may be the most useful, especially if the bank has special student accounts available that will give parents access to bank information. Find out which banks have ATMs close to campus-college kids usually don’t write many checks. Be sure to check on fees for using an ATM that’s not part of your bank’s network.
- Make plans to protect student property. College kids tend to have a lot of valuable electronics and computer equipment. Renter’s insurance can protect your investment if these items were to disappear. Your homeowner’s policy might also cover dorm room possessions—check with your agent.
- Health insurance: check out options provided by the college and compare these policies with your existing family medical coverage.
- Car insurance: check with your agent. If your child will not have a car at college, you may be eligible for a discount on your auto rate.
- Discuss credit card dangers: college students are besieged with credit card offers—discuss how the misuse of credit cards can affect their ability to get credit in the future. Look into debit card options or provide your offspring with a card in your name that can be monitored.
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