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Important legal documents for your college-bound child

You have helped them shop for dorm essentials, purchased them a new laptop, dropped them off at school and met their roommate. While colleges are often helpful in providing lists to make sure new students have everything he or she will need, there is also a list of legal documents you, as their parent, might want them to sign as well.

Health care documents

Your young adult child should have his or her own health insurance card since he/she may need medical care while away from home. Things happen and kids can get bumps and bruises along the way, particularly here in Colorado where outdoor sports are an important part of our culture. However, once your child turns 18, even though you are their parent, you no longer have legal access to your children’s medical records, nor can you make medical decisions on the child’s behalf. Some experts recommend parents draft special legal documents if they wish to continue to exercise these parental roles and obligations for looking after a child.

  • HIPAA authorization form: Because federal law protects the privacy of medical records, a form signed by the student enables you to access records, receive medical information and direct their medical treatment. 
  • Medical Durable Power of Attorney: This enables the signee (your child) to designate a parent to speak for his or her interests if he/sheis unable to do so on their own. Normally this is used by the elderly or infirm, but it can apply to any individual.  

Durable Power of Attorney

DPA enables you to address any financial or legal matter if your child is unable to handle them on his own, whether it is because he/she is out of state or simply unable to make these important decisions on their own. This includes filing a tax return on their behalf or managing financial accounts in their name. This arrangement can have a limit of duration.

Automobile Insurance

Plan to discuss vehicle insurance with your insurance agent well before your adult child leaves for college. Rates may need to be adjusted for a college bound student who is bringing a car to campus. Even if the young adult is driving only occasionally at college, proof of insurance should be among the documents provided.


You and your young adult student should discuss who keeps the passport. Usually the college age student will want possession of his/her passport.

Parenting does not stop at 18

There are no term limits on parenting, though some of us raised by over-involved parents perhaps wish there were. Rather than an ongoing way to “control them” (as the 18-year-old child may point out), this is simply a precaution in case of emergencies and offers convenient options for handling important, legal and time-sensitive paperwork.

If you are unsure about their benefits in your case, or unclear on how to execute these documents, it is wise to speak with a qualified attorney to get the answers you need.  

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