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Military Finances 101: 8 Legal Documents Parents and College Students Should Sign

College Planning Estate Planning

Your child is getting ready to head to college. You're feeling lucky because you're paying for it with the GI Bill and feel like you have everything covered. You've made sure they have their textbooks and everything needed to furnish their dorm, but there are some legal documents that you should have in place as well. Many of these documents will be handy to have should a medical or other emergency occur and you need to make decisions on behalf of your college student.

Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Waiver

Because your child is now a legal adult, you don’t have automatic access to information about them regarding their education. This includes access to information about their grades, academic records or disciplinary actions. Even if you’re paying your child’s tuition, the FERPA Waiver is needed to have access to any of their school records. Ask your child’s university to see if they have the forms on hand. If not, you can easily find a copy of this waiver online.

There are a few notable exceptions where a FERPA Waiver is not needed:1

  • Underage drinking: If the student is under 21 years of age and is in violation of any federal, state or local laws or college rules concerning the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance.
  • Medical emergency: If information needs to be communicated regarding an emergency health or safety situation, to protect either your student or other individuals.
  • Dependents: If you list your child as a dependent student on your Federal income tax return. There are some notable conditions, however; your child must be under 23 years of age, be unmarried, live with you for more than half of the tax year, and your child must not be supporting their own life by more than half.

Regardless of these exemptions, you may want to get a FERPA Waiver signed just to make sure your bases are covered.

Medical Documents and Authorizations

Medical documents and authorizations are easy to overlook when it comes to your child. They may still be your baby, but once they reach the age of 18 they’re considered an adult. Should your child have a medical emergency, having the necessary documents on hand will make sure you can focus on their care and recovery. 

HIPAA Authorization Form

This is one of the most important medical forms to have for your college student. A HIPAA authorization allows doctors and medical facilities to keep you updated regarding your child’s medical condition and health in the event of an emergency.

Medical Power of Attorney

A Medical Power of Attorney allows your child to designate someone (typically a parent or legal guardian) to make medical decisions for them should they become incapacitated. It’s recommended that your child choose a primary and secondary agent, just in case one of them isn’t available.

Durable Power of Attorney

A Durable Power of Attorney allows your child to designate someone (typically their parents or legal guardians) to handle their financial affairs should they become unable to. College students can also use this document to designate someone to handle their tax returns and other financial matters while they’re away at school.

Living Will

A living will allows your child to designate end-of-life care should they wind up in a persistent, vegetative state, unable to make their own medical decisions. It’s also vital for them to communicate these wishes to their family members so that everyone is on the same page.

Health Insurance

Most students are on their parents’ health insurance, but it’s important to confirm before they leave for college, especially if they’re attending school out-of-state or in another country.

Medical and Dental Appointments

It’s a good idea to make sure your child has any medical and dental appointments taken care of at least a month before they leave for college. Get copies of their prescriptions so they can fill them while they’re away, and make sure they have a copy of their medical records, especially if they have a chronic medical condition.

Coverage For Your Child’s Belongings

No one wants to think about dorms being vandalized or property being stolen, but it does happen. You’ll want to check your homeowners insurance policy to determine if your child’s belongings are covered while they are away at school. It’s especially important to make sure that their laptop or tablet is covered so they’re still able to do their schoolwork. If your child is living off-campus, they may need to obtain renter’s insurance.

It’s an adjustment to think of your college student as a legal adult. As your student heads off to college, having these important legal and medical documents on hand gives you peace of mind and allows you to focus on the school year ahead.


If you found this article useful, you might like the following blog posts:

GI Bill. 529 Funds. Which Should I Use First?


Military Finances 201: Do GI Bill Benefits Affect Financial Aid and the FAFSA?


Why Retiring Military Officers May Need to Cash US Savings Bonds Now


  1. https://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/students.html

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