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Designation of Health Care Surrogate for Minor Children: Is Your Child Covered?

Pop and I at a family wedding in the early 80s.

Pop and I at a family wedding in the early 80s.

When I was a child, my parents would occasionally go out of town for a long weekend or vacation. My brother and I were fortunate that we would could stay with our grandparents who lived nearby. My grandfather, (“Pop”) wasn’t a big stickler for rules like bedtime and my grandmother (“Granny”) made the most amazing milkshakes. Staying with Pop and Granny was always lots of fun.

Even as a child, I noticed that my mom would always take the time before she left town to write a letter authorizing my grandparents to consent to medical treatment in the event something should happen to my brother or me while we were in their care. Thankfully, the letter was never needed, but it was a wise precaution that most parents probably never thought about.

Today, the world is a much more complicated place and my mom’s handwritten note would probably no longer suffice to allow my grandparents to consent to medical care. If your child has an accident or illness while in the care of another person, even something routine like an ear infection or sprained ankle, it is possible that medical care could be withheld or delayed because that individual does not have the ability to consent to routine treatment.

Thankfully, Florida recently updated the laws relating to designation of healthcare surrogates to address this issue. Parents and legal guardians can now designate a health care surrogate for their minor children, provided the designation meets certain statutory requirements.

Under the newly updated Florida Statue §765, a parent or legal guardian of a minor child may designate a competent adult to serve as a surrogate to make health care decisions for the child. The designation can be for a specific time period, helpful for occasions when you are leaving your child with someone for a specific event. Or, the designation can be made until revoked. This is helpful if your children are regularly in the care of close family members or friends that you would want to have the ability to consent to medical treatment.

A Designation of Health Care Surrogate should be part of every comprehensive estate plan. However, if you have underage children, you should also make sure that you add a Designation of Health Care Surrogate for Minor Children to your plan as well. Because Florida laws were recently updated to provide for these types of documents, older estate plans probably do not include them. If you’d like to discuss updating your estate plan or adding a Designation of Health Care Surrogate for Minor Children to your estate plan, please contact my office today to discuss your options.

Estate PlanningKatie Floyd