Planning for a time when you are not able to care for your children may not be the first thing on your mind while you are juggling kids and the rest of your life. Make sure that you take the time to find someone who can take care of them if you cannot. Emergencies happen, so you need to have an emergency guardian in place for the kids if you are incapacitated. Depending on the type of guardianship, a guardian can take over if you are unconscious in the hospital, if you are unreachable, if your child needs immediate medical treatment, and more.
In California, only the courts can appoint a true “emergency” guardian. This is a person who takes over all care of your children for a brief time period and has authority to make decisions on their behalf. A guardianship is much more formal than just having your parents take care of the kids for the weekend. An emergency guardian can make decisions about a child’s medical care and schooling, and he or she has legal responsibility for the child. The emergency guardian also asks the court for appointment as a longer-term guardian, if needed.
If only a judge can appoint an emergency guardian, how can you ensure that someone you trust cares for the kids if you cannot? First, you can indicate in a will, power of attorney, or other legal document that you want a particular person to become guardian of your children. Parents of children with special needs often complete “letters of intent” that include this information. The court then may consider such a document when choosing a guardian. Ultimately, the judge has the final say on who should be the emergency guardian.
Alternatively, you can sign a power of attorney for a minor child. This legal document allows another adult to take custody of your child and make medical and educational decisions on his or her behalf. You can cancel this power of attorney at any time. You may want to consider a power of attorney if you and your spouse will be out of town at the same time or one of you will be out of the country.
Another alternative to emergency guardianship is the caregiver’s authorization affidavit. You do not have to sign the affidavit, so a relative could fill one out in an emergency. The affidavit allows a relative to enroll your child in school and gives the relative power to get your child medical care. If the person caring for your child is not a relative, then he or she can still enroll your child in school but can only make school-related medical decisions (like getting immunizations). The affidavit is only valid while your child is living with the caregiver, and you can cancel a caregiver’s authorization affidavit at any time.
Worried about who will care for your children if you cannot? Angela Klenk, Esq. and the team at Beach Cities Estate Law couple personalized attention to your estate plan with big law firm experience for a winning combination to give you peace of mind. To schedule a case evaluation, visit Beach Cities Estate Law online or call Angela’s office at (424) 400-2125.