What is a power of attorney for a child?

This legal document gives someone temporary guardianship and limited powers over a minor child.

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Elissa SuhSenior Editor & Disability Insurance ExpertElissa Suh is a disability insurance expert and a former senior editor at Policygenius, where she also covered wills, trusts, and advance planning. Her work has appeared in MarketWatch, CNBC, PBS, Inverse, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and more.

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When parents are away from their children for an extended period of time, they may need someone to watch over their child and make decisions on their behalf. If your child gets hurt while you’re away on business and needs emergency care, you may not be around to authorize it or make immediate decisions about their health. Having a power of attorney for a child in place can help facilitate these situations. 

A power of attorney gives someone, called the agent or attorney-in-fact, the authority to act on your behalf. This type of document is just one important facet of estate planning. With a power of attorney for a child, parents give someone else the legal authority to act on their behalf regarding their child’s care.

Key takeaways

  • A power of attorney for a child lets someone take care of your kids

  • POAs do not transfer custody, and parents can revoke the document at any time

  • Medical power of attorney for a child allows someone else to obtain medical care for your child and specifically make health care-related decisions

  • POA for minors must be signed and notarized like a regular POA document

Who needs a power of attorney for children?

Parents and guardians usually get a power of attorney if they are away from their child temporarily and unable to make immediate decisions. You might consider a POA for your child in the following situations when you’re:

  • Away on vacation or business 

  • Serving active military duty

  • Facing incarceration

  • Having surgery

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What power of attorney allows you to do

Parents typically grant the attorney-in-fact the power to provide basic care for their child and make decisions related to the minor's education and health care. This could include enrolling them in classes, meeting with teachers and administrators, and seeking medical or dental treatment for the minor child. 

The power of attorney for a minor can be as narrow in scope as you would like it to be; for example, you could expressly forbid an attorney-in-fact from traveling with your child out of the state. Parents can also authorize the attorney-in-fact solely for emergency health-care decisions  — effectively establishing a medical power of attorney for a minor. 

Keep in mind that even if you have a POA, your child's school may require you to fill out additional forms authorizing someone to act on your behalf regarding school matters. 

What a POA for a child does not do

Creating a power of attorney for a child does not give custody to the agent or create any permanent guardianship, since it only lasts for a duration of time specified by the parent. Some states may even place restrictions on the maximum amount of time that a POA for a minor child can last. If you have questions about giving someone full custody or want someone to be able to legally care for your child for an extended period of time, speak with a family law attorney. 

The POA also doesn’t usually give the attorney-in-fact the right over the minor’s property and belongings. Legally, minor children can’t hold assets legally until they’re of age anyway; you can set up a minor trust to hold their assets, which will be managed by a trustee — not the attorney-in-fact. 

The POA for a child does not affect the parents’ finances. The attorney-in-fact is not responsible for or able to make decisions for the parents; adults can get a separate financial power of attorney to allow someone to to make financial decisions, like accessing their bank account or making investment decisions. 

How to get a minor power of attorney form

Getting a POA for children can be inexpensive and it is similar to the way you’d get your own power of attorney form or another estate planning document. You can find a free form or “power of attorney for child” template online that you can fill out for free — you will only have to pay notary fees. If you’re using a free POA form, make sure that it is state-specific. Alternatively, you can consult with an attorney to draw one up for you, but it could cost more than a hundred dollars. 

A POA form for a child should include the following information:

  • Minor's name and birthdate

  • Parent or guardian's name, address, and contact information

  • Attorney-in-fact’s name, address, and contact information

  • Scope of powers granted to the attorney-in-fact

  • When (on a specific date, or under a specific condition) the document takes effect and how long it lasts

After completing the POA form, you and your attorney-in-fact must sign it. The signatures of  both parents are typically needed, and at the least you should make the other parent aware that you’ve established the power of attorney. 

In order for the POA form for a child to be a valid legal document, it must be notarized, and depending on your state you may be required to have disinterested witnesses sign the POA, too. 

Learn more about how to notarize a document.