That fact can be alarming, especially if your almost adult is getting ready to go to a far-off college or preparing to travel the world.

However, documents such as financial power of attorney, health care power of attorney, and a health information authorization can help you get access to the information you might need to help your child. And when you add a “durable” clause or paragraph to the power of attorney documents, you maintain the authority granted in cases when the granting person—in this case your child—becomes incapacitated for even a short time.

Documents for financial health

Your child’s fiscal health might benefit from your having a financial durable power of attorney. Its parameters can be limited or broad, depending on what works best for your family.

Limited rights restrict your access to your child’s financial information. You might only be able to see your child’s account balances, so you can tell when a checking account needs an injection of parental cash. Broad rights could allow you full transactional capabilities on an account. This option is worth considering if your child will be out of the country.

“Even if your attorney prepares a power of attorney for your child, you may want to talk with your financial institutions to see if they have agent authorization forms they’d prefer you to use,” said Alisa Shin, a senior wealth manager with Vanguard Personal Advisor Services®. “Using a financial institution’s form may make it easier for you to transact on your child’s behalf.”

Vanguard‘s agent authorizationform has both limited or full agent rights.

“When your child is away, having a power of attorney or agent authorization lets you help if he or she has a financial problem and isn’t here to take care of it,” Shin said.

Documents for physical health

A Heath Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) authorization form will let a health care provider—including a college’s medical team—share information about your child’s condition with you without violating privacy regulations.

“Once they’re 18, schools and hospitals aren’t required to notify parents if their children are being treated,” said Shin. This is the case even if your child is still covered by your health insurance plan.

The college health center may be able to provide you with the appropriate HIPAA authorization form. Filing this document with the health center before school starts helps ensure you’re the one who’s called if your child needs more serious medical attention. “Think about the hours of angst you’ll save not knowing what’s happening with your child,” Shin said.

While the HIPAA authorization lets you know your child’s medical condition, your child will need to execute a health care power of attorney (prepared by the attorney) so that you can make medical decisions for your child if he or she can’t. This document might also be called a health care proxy or health care directive. More often than not, a health care power of attorney will contain the necessary HIPAA language so that if your attorney is preparing the document, your child might not need to execute a HIPAA form.

Peace of mind once documents are in place

Like most parents, you want your budding young adult to take on the world—but also need to know you can help when needed. The appropriate power of attorney documents can give you confidence in your ability to do exactly that.

Note
The information provided here is for educational purposes only and isn’t intended to be construed as legal or tax advice. We recommend that you consult a tax or financial advisor about your individual situation.