If your child is over the age of 18, you will soon learn (if you haven’t already) that although you may provide all kinds of support, your child is already an ADULT and strict privacy rules apply in the eyes of the law.  Once this birthday occurs, you will no longer be able to access your child’s grades, tuition account, or financial aid information without his or her express authorization. You may provide “dependent” health insurance and claim your child as a “dependent” on your tax returns for the next few years, but do not be misled. For purposes of privacy laws and rules, your child is considered an “ADULT,” and you can no longer access information just by saying, “I’m their mother.”

What are your plans in the event of an emergency?  Would you be surprised if you called the hospital and were told that they could not share any information about your son or daughter’s condition “due to HIPAA privacy rules?”  Would you be surprised that you could not access banking information or take care of other business affairs in the event of an extended illness or incapacity? With the new dynamics created by COVID-19, it is now more important than ever to be prepared to help or access your children in the event of an emergency.

Because so many unknown contingencies have become realities for parents, I strongly suggest that you encourage any son or daughter over the age of 18 to sign three important documents.

HIPAA Authorization – The Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information (“Privacy Rule”) establishes a set of national standards for the protection of certain health care information.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) issued the Privacy Rule in order to implement requirements included in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”).  Because of severe civil and criminal penalties, health care providers may not share health care information regarding your son or daughter without his or her written authorization. A signed copy of this document should be saved on your phone as well as theirs.

Medical Power of Attorney – A Medical Power of Attorney will authorize you to make important medical decisions for your son or daughter if they cannot express their wishes or make decisions on their own due to temporary or extended incapacity.  In addition, the Medical Power of Attorney authorizes you to obtain copies of your child’s medical records. A signed copy of this document should be shared on your phone as well as theirs.

Durable Power of Attorney – A Durable Power of Attorney will authorize you to manage your son or daughter’s business and financial affairs, either as a matter of simple convenience, or as the result of temporary or extended incapacity. You may need to act on their behalf in dealing with: school, financial aid, employers, Social Security, filing tax returns, or accessing/closing accounts. 

The purpose of these documents is not to invade or compromise your child’s privacy, but rather to facilitate your ability to make important decisions if your son or daughter is unable to do so.   

©Will Morris 2020