News and Commentary

Prepare for Financial and Medical Issues Before Your Child Heads to College By Scott Montgomery

Congratulations! Your child has been accepted into college and will potentially move out of your family home in the next few months. During this time of excitement and, perhaps, sadness, don’t forget that the law no longer recognizes you as your child’s legal guardian. Unless you prepare in advance, you may not even have a right to be informed about your child’s health or financial status.

Under most state laws, children are no longer considered minors when they turn 18. At that age, they assume all control over their actions and decisions, and parents are relieved of all their legal responsibilities to them. While this does not necessarily mean that a parent will cut loose their 18-year-old child and stop paying for the child’s expenses, it does mean that parents will no longer be privy to the child’s personal information unless that child first provides the parents with permission to see and access that information. Before your child becomes ill and unable to manage their medical care or finances, parents should seek the counsel of professional advisors and ensure that they have the following documentation in place.

HIPAA Authorization and Healthcare Power of Attorney

If you want to speak to a doctor about your child’s medical condition or care, you must have the child sign a blanket HIPAA authorization allowing you to do so. Your child’s college may have different forms to sign and other requirements you must meet for them to release students’ medical information. Without this form, you will not have a right to receive information about your child’s care, even if they are hospitalized and unable to communicate with you directly. Instead, all information about your child’s medical care will be left to the hospital or physician providing care.

To make medical decisions on your child’s behalf, you must also have in place a signed healthcare power of attorney, also known as a healthcare proxy. This is especially important if your children become mentally or physically unable to make decisions on their own. No one wants to think about worst-case scenarios, but they do happen, and it’s better to be prepared.

Along the same lines, families may want to consider discussing end-of-life decisions and drafting living wills to spell out the decisions regarding the kind of healthcare their college-age children want or do not want in the event the children become incapacitated.

You and your child should have copies of all HIPAA authorizations, medical release forms and healthcare proxies for your state and the state where your child lives to expedite your ability to respond to unanticipated events.

Financial Power of Attorney

For many young adults, their transition to college represents the first time they will manage their finances and live within a well-defined budget. In addition to college tuition and fees, students may be responsible for monthly rent, utilities, car insurance premiums and credit card charges. Missing just one payment can put a significant dent in your child’s credit, and a habit of nonpayment can lead to far more severe consequences. For these reasons alone, it is important that parents execute a financial power of attorney, allowing them to access their children’s financial information and step in, as needed, to prevent an issue from turning into a much larger problem.  In addition, having a financial power of attorney in place allows the parent to sign for and make financial decisions about assets, such as cars and bank accounts, in the event a child becomes physically or mentally unable to make decisions or in the event they are out of the country studying abroad.

Sending a child off to college is a rite of passage that signifies your child’s first taste of true independence and their transition into adulthood. Planning under the guidance of experienced advisors can help prepare parents and children for an uncertain future.

About the Author: Scott Montgomery is a director and financial planner with Provenance Wealth Advisors (PWA), an Independent Registered Investment Advisor affiliated with Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors + CPAs and a registered representative with PWA Securities, LLC. He can be reached at the firm’s Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. office at (954) 712-8888 or

Provenance Wealth Advisors (PWA), 200 E. Las Olas Blvd., 19th Floor, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. 33301 (954) 712-8888.

Scott Montgomery is a registered representative of and offers securities through PWA Securities, LLC, Member FINRA/SIPC.

This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description or a recommendation. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove correct.

Any opinions are those of the advisors of PWA and not necessarily those of PWA Securities, LLC. While we are familiar with the tax provisions of the issues presented herein, as Financial Advisors of PWAS, we are not qualified to render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. Prior to making any investment decision, please consult your financial advisor about your individual situation.

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Posted on April 23, 2024