There are additional legal matters to keep in mind when your child goes off to college
When the retail sales flyers seem to multiply and Labor Day nears, you know the start of school can't be far behind. There's a lot to do before that first class convenes, even when your children are in college. And your to-do list includes much more than outfitting their dorm, attending their orientation and scheduling move-in dates.
"Though it may not be at the top of your mind, there are a fair number of legal issues to consider when your child goes off to college," said Johns, Flaherty & Collins attorney Sonja Davig. "Staying on top of these matters can ensure a seamless entry into higher education for your young adult."
Your legal checklist for back-to-school
The legal issues to keep in mind as the start of school approaches are important.
"These legal concerns can have an impact on many areas of your life, including your finances, your child's health care, your child's ability to attend class and even their living arrangements," said Davig. "So it's important not to take them lightly."
Let's look at the top items on your legal checklist for the school year.
Legal issues related to your child's medical care
"You care about the health and well-being of your child, so it's essential to think about the legal issues related to their medical care," said Davig. "For example, if your child should need medical care, you'll want to have a healthcare power of attorney in place, as well as a durable financial power of attorney, including a HIPAA release."
A healthcare power of attorney is important so you can make decisions related to their care when they are older than 18. It may be hard to think about, but this is an important legal consideration for any parent. A healthcare power of attorney allows you to access your child's medical records and make decisions if your child becomes incapacitated. If you don't have this legal document in place, you may have to take the matter to court to fight to be appointed as guardian so that you can make decisions about your child's care.
In addition, a durable financial power of attorney gives you the right to make certain decisions beyond health care on your child's behalf, including accessing their financial accounts, paying their bills, filling out financial aid applications, and even managing their taxes. Having a HIPAA release in place ensures healthcare providers can share your child's medical information with you without violating privacy laws, so you can have the information you need to make informed decisions during what would likely be an emotionally-charged time.
Legal matters related to finances
Tuition and financial aid are essential considerations for most families, and having the right forms in place is vital to locking in your child's education. It may seem obvious, but every year, students arrive ready to learn — but without the forms related to financial obligations settled. Taking care of tuition and financial aid before they leave for school should be a top item on your back-to-school checklist.
Legal issues related to living arrangements
Leases, subleases and even cohabitation agreements should also be on your to-do list for back-to-school.
"It's all too easy to let the legal considerations slide when students are cohabitating; it can feel awkward to ask your roommate to sign a legal agreement. But having the right documents in place protects your child from unforeseen expenses and hard feelings if damage is done to the rental," Davig said.
To ensure peace of mind when it comes to living situations, it's good to consider a cohabitation agreement that clarifies financial and personal responsibilities. More, this can also allow your child to sublet their space if they are away to study abroad or work elsewhere over the summer.
Need legal help for your child's next chapter?
Families, finances, education and medical care all come with complexities that sometimes require legal consultation to navigate, no matter how diligently you prepare. If your child has particular needs that require additional input or potential pursuit of legal action, having a trusted attorney on your side can make all the difference. Contact us to learn more about how our attorneys in Holmen and La Crosse, Wisconsin, can help you with a broad spectrum of life's legal concerns.
Information provided by Sonja Davig, a family law attorney in our Holmen office. For questions about legal preparations for your college-bound child, contact her at 608-526-9320.