For various reasons a minor child will sometimes go and live with someone besides his or her parents. Maybe the parents are struggling with health or substance abuse issues and their child goes to live with a grandparent. Maybe a teenager wants to finish their last year at school and will live with a friend while their parents move to a different state.
In the past, in order for the caregiver to have the authority they needed to deal with health care providers and school systems, a guardianship was needed. This took time to obtain, and replaced the parent's rights to make decisions for their children during the time that the guardianship remained in effect. It also involved the Court to initiate the process, and to terminate the guardianship.
A new law has been put into place to allow a parent to give a caregiver (the person the child is living with) concurrent authority to make educational and health care decisions for a minor child. (See MGL Ch. 201F for the law and a sample form) The Act Relative To Caregiver Education and Health Care Authorization allows a parent (it only needs to be signed by one parent) to authorize a person with whom their child is residing to "exercise concurrently the rights and responsibilities, except as prohibited by the parent, that the parent possesses relative to the education and health care of the minor children."
The parents can specify any actions that the caregiver is not allowed to take, and the parents continue to retain their authority to take any and all actions related to their children's health care and education. The parent's decision supersedes the caregiver's decision if there is a dispute. The caregiver signs an acknowledgment that they will not knowingly make any decision that conflicts with the decision of the child's parent or other legal guardian.
The document remains in effect until the date specified by the parent, not to exceed 2 years, and can be revoked or amended by the parent at any time. The document should be shared with the child's school and health care providers. If it is revoked or amended, the new copy or revocation should be given to anyone who had a copy of the old one. The only time the Probate Court would need to be involved is if there is a dispute that cannot be resolved.
This new law will go a long way to help those families who need some assistance in caring for their children, without needing Court involvement and the time and expense that entails.
Estate Planning, Probate and Trusts involve complex areas of law. Individual circumstances must be considered before any advice can be given. The general information above is not to be construed as legal advice, which can only be given after consideration of the unique facts of each matter. Please seek the advice or counsel of your attorney, financial advisor or CPA as it may be appropriate.