College students, you’re headed (or headed back) to campus in a few weeks, perhaps a long way from home. Let this estate planning lawyer/father of two daughters who are college graduates give you a little advice about something that few consider when loosing the parental collar.
Once you're 18 years old, you're an adult in the eyes of the medical world. That means your doctor/hospital/pharmacist can't, without your permission, share your information with your parents or let them be involved in your treatment.
"Good!", I hear you say. "None of their business if I'm on the pill or getting prescription meds while I’m at school."
No (well, not much) argument here; however, it also means that unless you give your parents authorization ahead of time to make treatment decisions for you in the event you're not able to (called a Medical Power of Attorney, or MPOA), or let them have access to your medical records when necessary, they can't help you. And when you need an MPOA, it's too late to get one.
Situation 1: Imagine you’re in a car accident that renders you unconscious or worse, but not dead. Without an MPOA, after the initial emergency is over, neither your parents nor anybody else can make treatment decisions about your care without going through a huge, complicated process that usually involves the courts and a LOT of expense.
Situation 2: You’re at a bar or a frat party or an initiation event (I know, you’d NEVER drink alcohol before you reached the age of 21, but humor me here) and have so much to drink that you pass out, vomit and aspirate it into your lungs. Think that’s not a medical emergency or that it would never happen? It is, it does, and it has long-lasting complications. Without the MPOA, your parents are back to the expense, the courts and the heartache.
Do yourself - and your family - a favor: get a medical power of attorney before you go (or go back) to school this fall. You can find the form online (I wouldn't recommend this option, but it's available). Better yet, talk to your parents about going to an estate planning attorney to have one prepared. A good estate planning lawyer doesn't just do wills (which also wouldn't be a bad idea): he or she will explain your choices and give you (and your parents) peace of mind that if something bad happens, you (and they) are prepared.