Authored by: Kristina Hernandez Tilson
As moms, we like to think that we will always be there for anything our children need. But the reality is, even the most amazing mom (or dad!) may at some point be unavailable or difficult to reach when a medical decision needs to be made for his or her child. That is why having a Designation of Health Care Surrogate for A Minor is important.
As a mother of two young children, I know how overwhelming it can be to think about all we need to have in place for our kids. As a trust and estates attorney, I hope this blog post will shed light on one of the most important documents parents can prepare to protect their children.
Designation of Health Care Surrogate for A Minor
In 2015, the Florida legislature officially recognized this document. The relevant statute can be found in Chapter 765 of the Florida Statutes. Chapter 765 now creates statutory authority for a parent (or legal guardian) to designate a health care surrogate to act on their behalf for medical decisions related to the minor. The statute itself even provides a sample form that parents (or legal guardians), may use to create such a document for their own family. You can find the sample form here.
This document permits the named surrogate (commonly, a grandparent, or other trusted adult) to make medical decisions concerning the child if the parent(s) are not able or reasonably available. It is commonly executed by parents before leaving on a trip without their children, or when the child’s grandparent or other care provider takes an active role in the child’s life. You can also name an alternate, in case your designated surrogate is unable or unwilling to serve when called upon. You may use one designation form to apply to all your children, or you may create separate designations for each child.
The statute also allows the document to impose time limits on the powers granted.
For example, some parents wish to grant a surrogate power only for the time the parents will be away on vacation. However, it is worth noting that should you need the surrogate to act on your behalf after the expiration date you imposed on the document, the person will not have the power to act. If you do not designate a termination date, the designation remains in effect until you revoke it or until the minor reaches the age of majority.
This document is oftentimes confused with a Designation of Preneed Guardian for A Minor. However, they are two different documents, even if they name the same individuals. A Designation of Preneed Guardian for A Minor nominates the parent(s) preferences for whom should become the child’s legal guardian if both parents are deceased and/or incapacitated. It is another important document, but not the subject of this blog post.
Once you have executed the Designation of Health Care Surrogate for A Minor, it is a good idea to give the surrogate(s) a copy of the executed document. You can also provide your child’s school and doctor(s) with copies. And, if you are planning to execute this document without the assistance of an attorney, keep in mind that while you do not need an attorney present, you must execute it in the physical presence of two witnesses. And the named surrogate(s) cannot act as a witness to the document.
*Please note this content is for informational purposes only. This content is not legal advice. Please contact an attorney to discuss preparing your estate planning documents.*
Kristina Hernandez Tilson has been a practicing attorney since 2011. She has dedicated her practice exclusively to the area of Trust, Estates, and Probate. She recently left her position as an associate attorney at a leading Trust & Estates firm with offices around Florida to begin her own practice. She is a native Miamian and is fluent in English and Spanish. She lives in Miami with her husband and their two young kids. You can learn more about and contact Kristina here.