August 16, 2018, 6:14 AM

Empty Nest: Critical Documents for the College Bound

By Laurie Kane Burkhardt, CFP®

This time of year brings back memories of preparation and anticipation for me and my family. It feels like only yesterday that my twins were heading off to college, even though they are now independent young adults. I remember the whirlwind of events, from college visits to applications, finally culminating with dropping them off at the dorm. It can be an emotional and stressful time as you prepare to support your child in this new chapter of their life. I remember the summer before the start of college was full of preparation. The typical preparations, like shopping for college supplies and bedding, are obvious. However, as a financial planner, I encourage all parents of college-bound students to also consider executing the appropriate critical legal documents. There are a few simple documents that may help you gain some peace of mind while protecting your child’s well-being.

Health Care Proxy: Did you know that 18-year-olds are technically adults? That means in the great majority of states they are legally able to enter into contracts and permitted to make their own health care decisions. If your child got into an accident and was incapacitated, depending on the state’s privacy laws the hospital may not be able to provide you with any information nor permit you to make any health care decisions for your child. A health care proxy is a document authorizing someone to make medical decisions on the patient’s behalf. If your child still depends on you for other important decisions in their life, they may be happy to extend that trust to their health care as well.

HIPAA: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects your child’s privacy from everyone - even his or her parent! This federal law provides that a parent has no legal right to obtain information about an of-age child’s health condition. By law medical providers are not required to share information about an adult child’s medical condition with you unless your child has signed a HIPAA release form naming you as an authorized recipient of such information. A HIPAA release form is essential for you to be able to obtain medical information in case of an emergency.

Durable Power of Attorney: This critical document allows your child to appoint an agent to manage his or her financial matters. Did you know that even if you as the parent are paying the tuition bills for your child, the college’s bursar office is not required to speak with you on any of the child’s financial issues?

FERPA waiver: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibits an institution from discussing a student’s record with anyone unless the student has granted authorization. For instance, you would not be able to reach out to the college to obtain any information on your child’s grades even if you’re paying for his or her tuition!  Many colleges provide a waiver to provide additional individuals access to their records. On the flip side, parents may feel this can be intrusive and trust the children to share their grade reports with them. Discuss this matter with your child before he or she heads off to school and decide in advance how you as a family wish to handle communication related to grades and other college-related issues.

During such a happy and tumultuous time, it’s unpleasant to think that your child will need such protection. However, these exposures can be easily mitigated with minimal effort. Please reach out to your trusted advisor to learn more about critical documents for the college bound. 

Disclosure: Modera Wealth Management, LLC (“Modera”) is an SEC registered investment adviser with places of business in Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Florida and Georgia.  SEC registration does not imply any level of skill or training.  Modera may only transact business in those states in which it is notice filed or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from notice filing requirements.  For information pertaining to Modera’s registration status, its fees and services and/or a copy of our Form ADV disclosure statement, please contact Modera or refer to the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure Web site (  A full description of the firm’s business operations and service offerings is contained in our Disclosure Brochure which appears as Part 2A of Form ADV.  Please read the Disclosure Brochure carefully before you invest or send money. This article contains content that is not suitable for everyone and is limited to the dissemination of general information pertaining to Modera’s financial planning, investing and wealth management services.  Past performance is no guarantee of future results, and there is no guarantee that the views and opinions expressed in this presentation will come to pass.  Nothing contained herein should be interpreted as legal, tax or accounting advice nor should it be construed as personalized financial planning, investing, wealth management or other advice.  For legal, tax and accounting-related matters, we recommend that you seek the advice of a qualified attorney or accountant.  This article is not a substitute for personalized planning from Modera.  The content is current only as of the date on which the presentation was given.  The statements and opinions expressed are subject to change without notice based on changes in the law and other conditions. 

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