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Essential Documents Every Parent Should Have

You care for your children in many different ways. Ensure your children are always cared for by learning about the important documents that can protect them when you're not around.

Essential documents for protecting your children

These are our top documents that parents around the world use every day to prioritize their children's interests.

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Step 1

Child Medical Consent

A Child Medical Consent is a document where a parent or guardian grants permission to a caregiver or other person to make medical decisions for a chil...

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Step 2

Child Travel Consent

A Child Travel Consent is a letter of parental permission for a minor child to travel with one parent, a group, another person, or alone.

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Step 3

Last Will & Testament

A Last Will and Testament allows you to specify how you would like your property and assets divided after your death.

Last updated October 28, 2023

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They say it takes a village to raise a child.

But, what they don’t say is that there may be situations where caregivers don’t know what to do, or they’re questioned on their authority to make decisions.

Want to know the secret of confidently putting your child’s well-being into someone else’s hands? Believe it or not, it’s using the proper documents.

In this article, discover which essential documents can equip your child’s caregivers with the knowledge and legal power to make decisions on their behalf.

What laws protect children’s rights in Canada?

First, it’s important to highlight the laws that protect children so you understand the legal expectations for parents. 

In 1991, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), ensuring Canadian law would respect the rights listed in this human rights treaty. 

In this article, we’ll be discussing documents that help parents protect children’s rights, such as:

  • The right to live with family
  • The right to good health
  • Protection from harm

In Canada, each level of government has various pieces of legislation that help uphold these rights. This includes family laws that address marriage, separation, divorce, and other legal topics involving children. These laws outline the responsibilities parents have for prioritizing a child’s best interests. 

Needless to say, parents are the first line of defence for children’s rights

So, let’s talk about how consent forms, estate plans, and other legal documents help reinforce your wishes for your child’s care and quality of life.

Consent forms are an invaluable tool for parents who need to communicate expectations, responsibilities, and approval of a certain activity. They can also contain crucial details for ensuring a child’s health and safety. 

In some cases, consent forms are legally required to ensure compliance with specific regulations and standards

Here, we’ll discuss how consent forms increase a parent’s ability to make informed decisions about medical treatment and travel. 

Accidents and emergencies can put your child’s health or safety at risk. Depending on the situation, medical professionals may need permission before they can give certain treatments. 

Typically, parents are the legal decision-makers when it comes to a child’s health care. However, there are times when parents are separated from their kids and decision-making authority falls to someone else. 

That’s why it’s beneficial to create a Child Medical Consent whenever your child is out of your care. Give this form to their temporary caregiver (whether that be a teacher, coach, friend, or relative) to grant decision-making powers and share important medical information.

With this consent letter, caregivers will have the information they need to safeguard your child’s health. 

Travel authorities may request a parental consent form whenever a child travels without one or both of their legal guardians. 

This may be to uphold child custody orders, stop human trafficking, and generally prevent child abductions. Ultimately, these checks exist to defend a child’s right to live with their family and protect them from harm. 

Requirements for consent letters vary depending on the destination, the age of the child, their reason for travelling, and who they’re travelling with. However, it’s best practice to send a Child Travel Consent to ensure their trip goes smoothly—whether they’re travelling domestically or abroad.

Guardians and estate plans

Of course, you hope not to leave your children while they’re still minors and dependent on you. 

But what’s worse is leaving your children without clearly documenting your wishes for their care.

If you know you’ll be away from your child for an extended time, you should consider using a Power of Attorney (POA) to set their temporary guardian up for success. 

Beyond that, you can prepare for an unpredictable future by creating a solid estate plan. If you pass away without a document such as a Last Will and Testament, courts will deal with your kids and estate according to the law. 

Power of Attorney

If you’re absent or incapacitated, a POA allows someone to act on your behalf and care for your child while you’re away. 

You can easily customize the powers granted in this document to suit your needs. For example, you can give authority to manage your finances if a guardian needs access to funds for groceries, childcare services, field trips, etc. You can also make it so the powers are only active for a certain time (e.g., until a specified date or in the event you lose capacity). 

What’s important to remember is that you cannot use a POA to appoint a legal guardian for your child. While you can give them temporary authority to act as your personal representative and make certain decisions, they will not have legal custody of your child.

Last Will and Testament

To appoint a legal guardian to care for your kids if you die, you’ll need to create a Last Will and Testament

Of course, if your children have a surviving parent, the selection of a guardian in your Will may not matter. However, a court may uphold your wish if they find that parent unfit to raise children.

If both parents die intestate (i.e., without a Will), a court appoints a legal guardian. Typically, this is another family member who applies for guardianship. However, if no one applies or accepts the role, your children may spend time in foster care until a suitable guardian is found.

A Last Will and Testament can also help you plan the distribution of your estate after you pass away

For example, if you die before your children reach the legal age of majority, you may wish to delay their full inheritance. On the other hand, you may wish to disinherit an adult child who became estranged. 

The point is, if you have specific bequests or plans for your child’s upbringing or inheritance, it’s crucial to create an estate plan.

Health care and emergency plans

Parents often expect their children to become responsible members of the family, contributing to household chores and caring for each other. 

As a child matures from a minor to an adult, their level of responsibility to the family will change. But, no matter their age, it’s likely that they will look to you for direction. 

By preparing certain documents, you can reduce the confusion and grief a child might experience during an emergency they need to handle on their own. 

Living Will

Watching a parent struggle with their health is extremely difficult for children. 

With a Living Will, also known as a health directive, you can document which medical treatments you consent to during an emergency. You can also use this document to appoint a personal agent to enforce your healthcare preferences. This is essential if you lose the ability to communicate. 

On top of that, you can make a statement of values and beliefs as they relate to health. While not binding to medical professionals, this statement can affect your quality of care. 

Ultimately, documenting your medical decisions saves your family the trouble of guessing what you want. 

Emergency Plan

Canada is prone to various natural disasters, including wildfires, floods, and winter storms. Having an Emergency Plan helps parents ensure the safety of their family in the event of such emergencies

If you involve children in the creation and regular review of the Emergency Plan, you’ll educate them on the importance of being prepared. This can help them become responsible, proactive members of the family.

Make your plan based on the specific needs and circumstances of your family, such as any medical conditions, special dietary needs, or mobility issues. You’ll need to consider processes and guidelines for evacuating or sheltering at home.

In the end, having a well-thought-out plan in place will give you and your family peace of mind.

Just-in-Case Instructions

If something should happen to you, having a central document with your personal, legal, and financial details can point your loved ones in the right direction. 

Just-in-Case Instructions can contain all the information someone would need to manage your affairs when you can’t. This can come in handy when a temporary guardian watches your kids for a time or when the executor of your estate needs to settle your affairs after you die.

At a glance, topics you can address in this document include:

  • Personal details about your identity, employment, and dependents
  • Lists of real estate, vehicles, and other personal belongings
  • Health care facts such as your emergency contact person, insurance policies, and family doctor
  • Lists of financial accounts, investments, and debts
  • Location and access details for important documents

Clearly, this document can be a wealth of knowledge to anyone entrusted with your affairs—whether they are someone caring for your minor children or an adult child helping you out as you age.

Typically, minor children cannot enter into legally binding contracts because they lack the capacity to do so. 

However, in some circumstances, courts may enforce contracts with minors. They may evaluate this on a case-by-case basis or refer to legislation that relates to the situation (e.g., Part 3 of British Columbia’s Infant’s Act describes such scenarios). If the court finds the contract enforceable, it will only be enforceable by the child and not against them.

While parents can co-sign or sign on behalf of their child, it’s crucial to remember that the contract may be invalid. Consult a lawyer if you have questions about a contract or document you need to sign for a child.

How can LawDepot help parents?

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