What is a child care emergency plan?

Updated: Mar 31

Many start thinking about setting up an estate plan when a big life change happens. What bigger change than having children? This blog post addresses the components of a comprehensive care plan for children under the age of 18 in Washington State.

Nominating Guardians

Parents with children under the age of 18 are faced with a difficult question. Who will take care of my child or children if something happens to me? This is where guardian nominations come into play.

Parents are able to hand select the individual or individuals they would like to entrust with their children's care by nominating them as guardians in the appropriate estate planning documents. Namely, a durable power of attorney and last will and testament.

Note, a verbal agreement or selection as a godparent is not a legally sufficient way to nominate a guardian. Nominations must occur through the estate planning documents mentioned above.

Care Plan During Life

A durable power of attorney is a document in which a parent can authorize an individual to act as guardian while the parent is still living. This often comes up in scenarios in which the parent is alive, maintains parental rights but is incapacitated or experiencing a disability that prevents the parent from being able to take care of the child or children. RCW 11.125.410.

A durable power of attorney can be used in non-emergency situations as well. For example, if a family member or friend often helps with babysitting, a parent can authorize this individual with decision making power over the child. This can be useful if a parent is at work or traveling and needs help with childcare.

A durable power of attorney is only in effect during the life of the parents who have signed the durable power of attorney. This documents becomes null and void upon death of the parents. RCW 11.125.100(1)(a).

Care Plan After Death

A last will and testament is a legal document that comes into effect after death. Through a last will and testament, parents can nominate guardians for their minor children in the event that both parents die. A court will still need to confirm the guardian nominations but having the guardians listed in the last will and testament facilities a smoother process.

What if one parent dies and the surviving parent has no relationship with the minor child?

Only a court of law can terminate the parental rights of a parent. If the surviving parent is absent and cannot be found, a court will likely approve the guardian nomination in the last will and testament.

In cases where the surviving parent is dangerous or abusive, collecting proof and documentation of this ahead of time can help the nominated guardian in getting confirmed by the court and having the parental rights of the surviving parent terminated.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By accessing this blog site you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and Sekhon Law, PLLC. This post should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.