It seems we may be finally reaching a point of some consistent normalcy as covid numbers are, once again, under control-ish (hopefully I don’t jinx it by saying so) and people are beginning to plan to travel more frequently. I had my first child, Logan, in August and am about to go on my first childless trip in a few weeks. As an estate planning attorney, I give people advice all the time about what legal documents they should have in place to make sure everything is taken care of for their families and themselves. And yet, I realize, I am not adequately prepared to travel and should really start following the advice I give clients every day.
Aside from the obvious things one should have in order (wills, trusts, medical directives, etc.—if you are reading this and thinking hey, I don’t have any of that, feel free to contact me!), there is one gap some parents often overlook: what happens when I am away from my child and there is a medical emergency? In many cases, parents travel together and the person taking care of their children will not have any legal custodial powers. They cannot authorize any medical procedures or sign-off on any school activities. That is where a Limited Power of Attorney for children comes into play. A Limited Power of Attorney can be used to give someone temporary parental and custodial powers over your children.
Logan will be nine months old when I leave him with my mom. Just this week, I had my first call from daycare that there was a positive COVID case in his classroom. I scrambled to figure out if we needed a pediatrician appointment and where to get him tested (luckily, he is negative so far). I realized my mom may have run into issues if this had happened while she is watching him because she has no authority to sign off on any testing or treatment. It certainly seems likely something too similar could come up again when we are out of town. Not to mention, my parents had their fair share of emergency room visits when my brother and I were young, so ruling out Logan being clumsy and needing a quick trip to a doctor would be shortsighted.
A Limited Power of Attorney for your children is a pretty simple document in which you can grant these temporary powers to a person (or two) for the timeframe you expect to be away or unavailable (in Virginia, this cannot exceed 180 days). You can be specific about the powers you grant and provide the necessary information for the caretaker regarding health insurance information, preferred doctors, and any important medical information for your children. The document can be reused multiple times and updated with new dates, new people caring for your children, or any new information as needed.
If you have a trip coming up or just want to get everything in order for a potential time away from your kids in the future, contact us to make an appointment and mention this post.
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