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Parental risk management for college students


We review the legal documents, risk management and vital areas of insurance coverage every family should address.

school steps | © S Fanti/ -

© S Fanti/ -

Many physicians have adult children who left for college over the last few weeks. We review the legal documents, risk management and vital areas of insurance coverage every family should address.

As the fall semester is well underway at colleges across the country your adult children, over the age of 18, have a variety of new rights, risks and obligations, many of which you may also be responsible for. They can now vote, sign contracts, register for the draft and enlist in the military, get married and apply for credit, including credit cards, as just a few examples. Once your child is 18, things change for you as well, including the severance of a number of the rights that you had when they were minors.

Some of what changes when your child turns 18

  1. You no longer have a legal right to participate in or control their healthcare decisions or to access their healthcare information.
  2. They now control their own legal and financial decisions.
  3. You lose access to their grade reporting information.
  4. You are usually no longer legally responsible for supporting them.

Basic legal documents you should have in place for adult children

Medical power of attorney and HIPAA authorization

The Medical Power of Attorney (MPOA) designates the individual(s) that have medical treatment authority for your adult child if they are incapacitated and can’t make those choices themselves. Laws regarding the requirements for thevalid creation of a medical power of attorney varies slightly across all 50 states, so make sure that yours is legally compliant with both the law of the state in which they attend college and their “home state”. Avoid multiple versions in different states, as newer versions will typically nullify and revoke previous ones and because it could lead to a conflict of state laws. If your MPOA does not include a HIPAA authorization for the release of medical records, it can be executed separately, including at any treating facility, assuming that the student/patient has the capacity to do so.

Advance directive
Also known as a living will, this provides detailed instructions on healthcare wishes for an incapacitated person including end of life decisions and the use of life sustaining care and appoints an individual that has the authority to make those decisions. These written documents should be executed as soon possible if not already in place and must comply with the requirements outlined by the law of the state in which the student resides.

FERPA waiver or authorization

When a student reaches 18 years of age or attends an institution of postsecondary education at any age, the student becomes an “eligible student,” and all rights under FERPA transfer from the parent to the student. As such, if you want to be able to access protected information, FERPA requires that a consent for disclosure of education records be signed and dated, specify the records that may be disclosed, state the purpose of the disclosure, and identify the party or class of parties to whom the disclosure may be made.

General financial power of attorney

This written document should be executed in compliance with state legal requirements and gives you legal authority to participate in your child’s legal and financial decisions. This may include dealing with their school, hospitals, financial institutions and etc. This can be effective either upon signature or in their event that they are unable to do so for any reason ranging from incarceration to medical incapacity.

Four vital areas of insurance for adult children at college

  1. Health insurance. Students can be covered on their parents’ health insurance policies up until age 26 in most cases, but it not always logistically (lack of in network providers in another state) or economically (lower cost through school plan) beneficial to do so. There are a variety of options available ranging from coverage provided at low cost by many schools to programs backed by the government. Coverage is especially vital for student athletes who routinely face injury risk.
  2. Renters Insurance. Covers a wide variety of risks from theft and damage to 3rd party injuries and may include up to $1MM in liability insurance.
  3. Liability insurance for injuries or losses to others.
  4. Auto Insurance at high limits for accidents.
  5. Tuition Insurance. Covers specific disruptions of the academic year that would affect their attendance or completion and cause a loss of tuition paid.

Attorney Ike Devji has 20 years of legal experience focused exclusively on asset protection, risk management and wealth preservation. He helps protect a national client base with more than $6 billion in personal assets, including several thousand physicians. He is a contributing author to multiple books for physicians, a Physicians Practice contributor for over a decade and a frequent national CME presenter. Learn more at

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