How do I give my sister power of attorney over my son?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I have a ten-year old child. I have been in and out of jail several times over the last few years. I am concerned that if something happens to me I will not be able to care for my child. I am wondering if there is a process where I can designate my sister as the decision maker for my child for a time if something happens to me?”

Overview of Power of Attorney

It’s not unusual for parents to need another adult to make decisions for their child for a short time without forfeiting their parental rights. This can be done through a legal process referred to as Power of Attorney.

With this legal document, you will be able to maintain custody of your child but designate another person to make specific decision such as medical treatment and school registration while you are on vacation, suffering from a severe illness, or incarcerated.

How long will the power of attorney remain valid?

State laws will determine how long a Power of Attorney will be valid. For example, in Alaska the document is valid for only 12 months. Under some conditions, however, like a military duty, the Power of Attorney may be valid until the service member returns from deployment. Talk to a lawyer who is familiar with your state’s laws for more information about the limitations in your state.

How do I create a Power of Attorney?

The process to create a Power of Attorney is not difficult. Simply complete a Power of Attorney form and sign in in front of a notary public. The document should then be given to the agent with copies distributed to all necessary parties such as the doctor, school administration, and babysitters.

Information to include in your Power of Attorney document include the following:

  • Names, addresses and phone numbers of parents or guardians that are signing the Power of Attorney for the Child
  • Names and addresses of the appointed agent
  • Information about each child covered by the Power of Attorney
  • Effective date of the document
  • Contact information for each parent. For example, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses used while the parents are travelling.

You may also choose to give specific powers to the acting agents. For example, if you are going out of town for a few weeks you may want to note that the acting agent should provide food, lodging, recreation, and medical care for your child. If the Power of Attorney is for a longer period of time, however, the acting agent may need the ability to enroll children in school and extracurricular activities and make decisions for the child regarding their education and healthcare.

Power of Attorney will not transfer all authorities

It’s important to note that while a Power of Attorney does transfer some decision-making authority to another person, it will not transfer all authority. For example, it cannot transfer decision the right to decide if your child should be adopted, whether your child can get married, whether your child may sell their property, or whether your parental rights may be terminated. The power of attorney simply allows another person to make day to day decisions, such as educational decisions and some medical decisions.

How do I revoke the Power of Attorney?

You can assign your sister as Power of Attorney over your child at any time. You can also revoke the Power of Attorney at any time. Review your state’s laws for additional revocation requirements, but revoking the document is generally as easy as notifying your sister in writing of the decision to revoke the document  and then destroying the Power of Attorney document.

Bottom Line:

Creating a Power of Attorney for your child can be a very smart and responsible decision. You may also be able to complete the document without legal help. If you do decide to create it on your own, however, make sure to review your state’s laws and understand all the legal requirements to make it valid. The good news is creating a Power of Attorney for your child is the perfect way to alleviate the hassle and difficulty of another person caring for your child if you are eventually sent back to jail.

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