Parents of College Students: Please Read

By Steve Tepper, CFP®, MBA

You’ve sent your kid off to school. Congratulations, and if you need a good contractor to convert that bedroom into an exercise room, let me know. And keep that name for four years from now just in case you need to convert it back!


College is a time of mixed emotions for any parent. You’ve got a little more peace and quiet and freedom to travel or walk around the living room in your underwear. On the other hand, it’s a big milestone and reminder that time and your life move in only one direction—or in the more familiar vernacular, you’re not getting any younger.

One constant for all parents when their kids move away is worry. You’ve done your best to raise responsible young adults, but you remember your first time away from home and hope and pray your kids are smarter than you were.

Now, for the first time, you don’t know if your kids are safe. Is there anything worse than a 3 a.m. phone call from the police, EMT, or emergency room staff telling you that your child has been in an accident? Well, there might be—thanks to rules under HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), that nightmare scenario could be even worse.

Imagine getting that call but not having any idea about your child’s condition, or even if they are alive or dead. Under HIPAA, that basic information cannot be given to you once your child reaches the age of 18.

So now you find yourself in a car driving frantically in the middle of the night not knowing what awaits you at the end of your trip: a bruised and banged-up kid who will heal soon, a kid with more severe injuries needing surgery or surgeries, or a grief counselor.

Unfortunately, we can’t keep our children safe from all of life’s perils, but you can put yourself in a better position to deal with every parent’s worst nightmare should it occur: by having your kid name you as their power of attorney (POA).

With a properly executed POA, you can act on your child’s behalf if they are incapacitated, and if that phone call comes, you can get vital information right away from the medical staff.

While a POA can be far broader and give you access to your child’s academic records, bank accounts, apartment rental agreements, student loan balances, etc., it can also be restricted to just vital health information. It can give you authorization to make decisions regarding medical procedures, organ donation, and a host of other issues.

It is not a fun subject and it’s not on many parents’ minds when their children reach 18, but it’s not on any 18-year-old’s mind. It’s up to you to take the step to get those papers drawn and explain to your child why it is important they sign them.

If you have an estate planning attorney you like, call them right away to get the paperwork drawn up. If you don’t have one, we work with many estate planning attorneys and can connect you with one.

(Special thanks to Alan Reinfeld, estate planning attorney in Coral Springs, for bringing up this topic at a recent meeting of my professional networking group, BNI Profit Partners.)

Disclosure: Referrals through a BNI chapter are not done on a “solicitor” basis. No compensation is given to the member giving the referral. Any referral made by your Northstar Investment Advisor Representative is done as a professional courtesy and/or as part of a complete “Wealth Management” approach to financial planning, and no compensation is given to Northstar or any representative of Northstar based on a said referral.