So you’ve finally managed to get away on a vacation… without the kids! Hurray! But when you’re a parent, you never really leave the kids behind, do you? Maybe you can leave them behind physically, but emotionally, they’re coming with you wherever you go. That’s especially true if you are a worrier, which I, for one, am. Coming up with, and then worrying about, scenarios that most people would consider pretty far-fetched is a special talent of mine. Although it’s not necessarily a characteristic that I enjoy, I do think it makes me well suited for creating estate plans and drafting contracts, two tasks that depend heavily on one’s ability to anticipate problems.
But sometimes, you really do just want to be in the moment. And a kid-free vacation is definitely one of those times. If you do happen to score one of these, however, it doesn’t take much of an active imagination to come up with at least a few scenarios that might keep you preoccupied while you’re trying to relax. One of the more likely nagging questions probably is (and maybe even should be), what happens if my child needs emergency medical treatment, and I’m three time zones away in a secluded location that advertises its unreliable cell phone coverage as a perk? What if the hospital is reluctant to provide medical treatment to my child without my authorization? What if a doctor wants to see medical records, but I can’t be found to provide a HIPAA-compliant record release authorization?
You can delegate the power to authorize emergency medical treatment
Well, I have good news (for Coloradans, at least). Colorado has a statute that allows you to create a relatively simple document, temporarily delegating the power that you have as a parent to make medical decisions for your kid to somebody else. Specifically, that statute (C.R.S. 15-14-105) states as follows:
A parent or guardian of a minor or incapacitated person, by a power of attorney, may delegate to another person, for a period not exceeding twelve months, any power regarding care, custody, or property of the minor or ward, except the power to consent to marriage or adoption.
The Colorado courts provide a statute-compliant form, along with instructions, on their website. Here’s what their template looks like:
Some things to note about this form:
- As you can see, it needs to be notarized. This is probably not something that you want (or need) to leave with the babysitter every time you go out to dinner. It’s just enough of a pain to complete that it really is just for longer-term situations in which you might be hard to reach.
- The court’s form does not contain any language about HIPAA. And, as noted above, without some HIPAA language, your childcare provider still might have difficulty obtaining medical records, if needed, even with this form in hand. This can be important, and if you’re going to go to the trouble of executing one of these forms, it makes sense to add some HIPAA language in there too. HIPAA, however, can be confusing, and you often have to get the language exactly right in order for it to work. Having the form above certainly is better than nothing, but having one with some attorney-approved HIPAA language would be better still.
- The form above is just an example. Getting the form from the court has the benefit of giving you some added confidence that a hospital will recognize it and accept it. But you can create your own form (not recommended) or have an attorney create one for you that contains different language (such as the HIPAA language described above).
- Depending on how much of a worrier you really are, you can relax about at least one potential issue. You will not, by signing this forming, be risking the possibility of returning home to find out that your kids were put up for adoption or sold off to an arranged marriage. Even I wouldn’t have thought of those possibilities, but now that they’ve been brought to my attention, we can just snuff them right back out. The statute specifically forbids them from happening.
- If you have small children, I urge you to have a full estate plan in place, of which this form will only be one part. If you and your spouse really are going on a vacation three time zones away, it’s unpleasant, but you need to consider what happens to your kids if you don’t make it back. Having someone available to authorize emergency medical treatment will only be one of many problems to address in that scenario.
This form is better than nothing, but you do need a complete plan
If you have minor children but don’t have a plan in place for what happens to them if something happens to you, please contact me to discuss your options. Part of being a parent is having a plan, and too many people don’t.