I-Team: 4 critical forms to sign before sending your child off to college

Saturday, August 18, 2018

CHAPEL HILL, NC (WTVD) -- They may just now be leaving the nest, but your child's independence really started at the day he or she turned 18.

As thousands of students move into their dorms, financial planners and attorneys are urging families to sign several forms they explain are critical and necessary when adult children legally have autonomy over their health, education and some financial assets.

Orly Reznik, a Cary-based lawyer focused on estate planning and wills, told ABC11 that signing these four forms will eliminate any stress and confusion should an emergency arise, including while a student is studying abroad.

Without these forms, it's possible parents could be denied access to medical records, credit reports or transcripts, among other things.

"Whenever there's a crisis it's usually not the money that people are concerned about - but the time," Reznik explained to ABC11. "If there is a financial decision that needs to be made and no one is able to make that, there could be dire consequences for that. Same thing for a health agent."

Below are the "core four" forms and how to find them, according to Reznik:

1. General Power of Attorney, also called financial of attorney, allows you to appoint an agent to make financial decisions on your behalf. Input from an attorney is advisable to make sure you are not granting too much or too little authority to your agent. A family will also want to make sure it is properly executed so that financial institutions will accept it.

2. Healthcare Power of Attorney - allows you to appoint an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable. The form also permits you to list limitations on your health care agent's authority and guidance on what decisions you would like to have made. The North Carolina Secretary of State offers a copy of this form here.

It is important to make sure the form is properly executed- signed, witnessed and notarized.

3. HIPAA Release (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) - Here you can list the person(s) who are authorized to receive your confidential medical information. In contrast to a Healthcare Power of Attorney, these individuals cannot make medical decisions, they can simply receive the information. You can learn more about HIPAA here.

4. FERPA Release - The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects the privacy of student's educational records. Unless an exception applies, parents cannot access their child's educational records once the child is over 18, or enrolled in school beyond high school. Many universities have these forms on their website. Students can either sign the release, or parents can certify that an exception applies.

For UNC-Chapel Hill FERPA form, click here.

For N.C. State FERPA form, click here.