Creating a Medical Power of Attorney for Minor Children

September 10, 2015

medical power of attorney for minor childrenWhether your children are visiting their grandparents out of town, or they are away at camp for two weeks, there may come a time when you will be unavailable to consent to medical treatment for your children.  As stressful a thought as that might be, there are ways to handle this situation.  It only takes a little bit of planning.  Creating a medical power of attorney for minor children is the easiest and most effective way to give you peace of mind, when you are away from your kids.
The purpose of a medical power of attorney for a child
Because it is not a true power of attorney, it is also referred to by some as a child medical consent, a medical power of attorney can be used whenever parents are unable or unavailable to provide consent for their child’s medical treatment when it is needed.  This important legal document will provide your child’s caregiver during that period of time, the authority to make medical decisions for the child, which would normally require a parent’s consent.
Why would a medical power of attorney be necessary?
Some people do not realize that health care personnel are not allowed to perform certain types of treatment on a minor without the parents’ permission.  Typically, this includes non-emergency, life-saving procedures.  In other words, an ER doctor would be allowed to do whatever is medically necessary to save your child’s life, but short of that, permission is most likely required.  A medical power of attorney would allow the temporary guardian listed on the document to give consent, just as the parents would.  The power of attorney would only become effective if necessary.
When should I create a medical power of attorney for my child?
A medical power of attorney can be very useful in a variety of situations. If you are travelling and leaving your child in the care of a friend or relative, a medical power of attorney is a good idea.  When children go to overnight camps or boarding schools, parents are often required to sign a similar consent form.  Many people also use medical powers of attorney for grandparents, babysitters and nannies.  The choice is yours.
What types of power can be given?
In most cases, a medical power of attorney for a child provides rather limited powers. What it does not do, is transfer any parental rights, other than the right to make health care decisions. The terms of the power of attorney can be drafted so that it only covers certain types of medical situations, such as emergencies.  It can also provide specific dates that the power or authority is valid.  A medical power of attorney is not effective if the parent becomes disabled or dies.
Limitations on the duration of medical power of attorney for a child
Each state typically sets the maximum amount of time a medical power of attorney for a child can remain valid.  For parents who are in the military, however, exceptions are often made to allow for a longer duration.  Usually, this type of power of attorney is considered “nondurable,” meaning that it ends if the parent becomes incapacitated or incompetent.
If you have questions regarding medical powers of attorney for children, or any other estate planning issue for families with minor children, please contact Anderson, Dorn & Rader, Ltd., either online or by calling us at (775) 823-9455.

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