Do Grandparents Need a Power of Attorney to Take Grandchildren to the Doctor?

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

Do Grandparents Need a Power of Attorney to Take Grandchildren to the Doctor?

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

Many grandparents today care for their grandchildren on a regular basis. Even if you only provide childcare occasionally, there is always a chance they may need to see the doctor while you're in charge. While you may not have legal guardianship or permanent custody of your grandchild, a medical power of attorney or other legal consent form, as appropriate in your state, gives you legal authority to make health-related decisions for them.

Grandparents holding granddaughter

Legal Consent for Childcare Decisions

Similar to powers of attorney and advance healthcare directives for adults, a power of attorney for a minor gives the designated agent(s) authorization to make certain decisions for a minor who is not yet 18 years old or is otherwise emancipated.

Individual states' laws differ in this area, but in general, a power of attorney for a minor allows the grandparents, as named agents, to do several things like enroll the child in school, provide consent for school activities, get information about the child's education from the school, and make medical decisions on the child's behalf. This may include dental check-ups and dental work, well-child visits, immunizations, mental health services, and emergency medical care. Be aware that, unless otherwise specified, a power of attorney may be limited to a specific purpose, like authorizing one type of medical procedure and not any other.

Customizing the Consent Form

Parents or legal guardians can tailor power of attorney for grandparents, limiting authority to only certain activities. Alternatively, they can grant broad power, giving the grandparents authority to make all types of decisions covered by the form.

The custodial parent or legal guardian should designate how long the form is valid. The maximum length of time varies by state law, but the form is generally not intended as a long-term, open-ended grant of authority. This type of document is often used for short-term planning. For example, parents going on vacation may decide to give their child's grandparents power of attorney during the time the parents are away, designating an end date that corresponds to or overlaps with their expected return date.

Parents or legal guardians can revoke grandparents' powers of attorney at any time. If it has not been revoked or terminated prior to the grandchild's 18th birthday, authority automatically ends at that point. In some states, grandparents' authority also ends when the grandchild no longer lives with the grandparents.

Making the Form Legal

When parents or other legal guardians decide to give a grandparent power of attorney for a grandchild, both parents or legal guardians generally must sign the consent form and have their signatures notarized. In some states, the grandparents' signatures also require notarization. In some limited circumstances, one parent's or legal guardian's signature may suffice, including when the court has designated one parent as the sole residential parent and legal custodian.

Your clinic or state attorney general's website may have a standard grandparent power of attorney form or medical consent document you can download and use. Alternatively, you can work with an experienced attorney to create a power of attorney for your grandchild.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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