Image of a College Student Who Needs a FERPA ReleaseAlthough we are in the dog days of summer, for many kids, back to school is already looming on the horizon. A constant question I get from my estate planning clients is:

Does my child need estate planning documents before they head off to college?

There can be a variety of documents that we think of as only for older adults, but they can be even more important for our family members just heading off to college. Traditionally, we'll work together to create a healthcare directive, a HIPAA Authorization, and a financial power of attorney, so that in case something happens while they are at school, the right person is able to make decisions and assist them.

As we work on these documents, it's important to understand that when your child turns 18 and heads off to college, they legally become adults. This transition brings many changes, including their privacy rights concerning educational records. One essential document that often goes overlooked in estate planning for college students is the FERPA release.

What is FERPA?

FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. Once a student turns 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level, rights under FERPA transfer from the parents to the student. This means parents lose automatic access to their child's educational records without explicit permission.

Importance of a FERPA Release

A FERPA release is a document that a student signs to grant their parents or guardians access to their educational records. This release is crucial for several reasons:

  1. Emergency Situations: In case of an emergency, having access to a student's records can be critical for understanding their medical and academic history.
  2. Academic Support: Parents can better support their children academically if they have access to grades, transcripts, and academic progress reports.
  3. Financial Aid: Managing and understanding financial aid packages, tuition bills, and other financial obligations often requires access to educational records.

How to Obtain a FERPA Release

To obtain a FERPA release, students typically need to complete and sign a form provided by their educational institution. This form will specify who is granted access and what type of records can be disclosed. Estate planning lawyers should ensure that this document is included in the suite of essential documents for college-bound clients.

Signing a FERPA release to allow parents access to educational records can be beneficial for college students in several ways:

  1. Support and Guidance: Parents can offer valuable support and guidance when they have access to a student's academic progress. They can help identify areas where the student might need additional help or resources, providing a safety net for academic success.
  2. Financial Assistance: Many parents are involved in financing their child's education. Access to records allows parents to better understand and manage financial obligations related to tuition, scholarships, and financial aid.
  3. Health and Safety: In emergencies, having access to educational records can help parents make informed decisions about their child's well-being. This is particularly important for students with medical conditions or other vulnerabilities.
  4. Academic Planning: Parents can assist with long-term academic planning and career advice when they have a clear picture of the student's academic performance and course load. This can be crucial in ensuring that the student stays on track to meet their educational goals.
  5. Legal and Administrative Ease: Signing a FERPA release can streamline administrative processes, reducing the need for multiple permissions and consents when dealing with academic or legal matters. This efficiency can save time and prevent misunderstandings.

Overall, while maintaining privacy is important, providing parents with access to educational records through a FERPA release can enhance the support system for students, aiding their academic and personal development.

Need Help with Documents for Your Child?

If you and your family need help getting documents prepared for the upcoming school year, let's schedule a Legal Strategy Session online or by calling my Edina, Minnesota office at (612) 294-6982 or my New York City office at (646) 847-3560. My office will be happy to find a convenient time for us to have a phone call to review the best options and next steps for us to work toegether to get the documents prepared.

Andrew Ayers
Connect with me
I work with business and estate planning clients to craft legal solutions to protect their legacies.
Post A Comment