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Be Ready for Anything

Powers of Attorney do more than assist adult children in caring for aging parents—to pay bills, order medications, or assist with medical care; they’re also essential for parents of young children.


Powers of Attorney

Powers of Attorney are extremely useful legal documents whereby a person (the “Principal”) names another person as his or her agent—and gives the agent certain powers, such as the power to sign a contract on behalf of the Principal. While we might think first about when a relative asks us to be an agent, we might forget that parents of young children need Powers of Attorney, too.

 

Scenario 1

 

Ah, summertime. The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, and the kids are off to Grandma’s for a couple of weeks.  One afternoon, little Jimmy jumps off a swing at the playground and breaks his ankle. Grandma takes Jimmy to the emergency room and starts filling out the paperwork, only to discover that 1) she doesn’t have any legal authority to consent to medical treatment for Jimmy; and 2) she doesn’t know Jimmy’s medical history or if he is allergic to any medications. Grandma tries to reach you to get your consent to the medical treatment, but you are in a meeting and can’t answer the phone. Grandma calls Jimmy’s pediatrician’s office to get his medical records and is told that HIPAA regulations forbid them from sharing Jimmy’s medical records. Now what?

Anytime your children are going to be in the care of another adult, it is essential that you execute a limited Power of Attorney giving that adult the legal authority to handle this type of situation. Among other things, a good limited power of attorney will include the length of the time that the power of attorney is valid, the authority to consent to medical treatment, a HIPAA waiver, and contact information for the child’s doctor. Additionally, the power of attorney must be executed in accordance with the laws in your state.

 

Scenario 2

 

She’s got the twin-size comforter, the laundry basket, the meal-plan ticket, and her first semester’s books, but now the college is telling you that your daughter won’t be permitted to start classes next week because she hasn’t submitted her immunization records. You quickly pick up the phone and call your doctor’s office to ask them to fax your daughter’s immunization records to the school—and the receptionist very kindly tells you that she can’t do that because your daughter is now 18 years old (a legal adult) and because of that HIPAA forbids them from releasing her medical records without her consent. Your daughter is in Costa Rica with her aunt and cannot be reached. Now what?

Most parents fail to realize that as soon as your child turns 18 years old, he or she gains the legal status of an adult, meaning that parents can no longer consent to medical treatment on their child’s behalf, access medical records, or conduct other business. This can be easily remedied by having the new adult sign a Power of Attorney wherein one (or both) parents are named as an agent. It is recommended that all graduating high school seniors speak with an attorney about the legal rights that come along with being an adult—and the importance of having legal documents in place, such as a Power of Attorney.


 

Written by Jennifer Tomac, Attorney at Law
Tomac & Tomac
“Strong Families. Strong Communities.”