Child Custody, Divorce, Parenting Plans and How They Impact Estate Planning In WA State

Estate planning is an important step for any adult person.

Estate planning not only makes sure your requests are followed after your death, but it also ensures your family members have a plan for what to do with your assets.  

Unfortunately, some circumstances (that may also have led to a divorce in the first place) can affect the overall child, parent, property equation.

Here are some of the challenges a split family with an estate plan might face… and steps to avoid them.


Under Washington state law, if your divorce is pending, your spouse still has legal right to the majority of your estate.

This is true even if your divorce is pending at the time of your death because in the laws eyes you are still legally married.  After your divorce is finalized, your ex-spouse no longer has any rights.

Without a will or estate plan, your belongings will inevitably go to your spouse and then biological children. If your divorce is finalized and you have not remarried, your biological children will then split the estate.

Many people create a will after their marriage to include their spouse and any children coming from that relationship. After a divorce, you should absolutely schedule a visit to an estate planning attorney.

Because of the divorce, it is will be necessary to change your will to reflect your new situation, whether that be single parent, or remarriage.


As far as custody goes, child custody in WA state requires that if you have adopted a child or a spouse’s child from a previous relationship, the child is also considered biological for transferring purposes.

You should also keep in mind if you have remarried and have “step-children”, they do not necessarily have any rights to inherit your estate.

This means anything left of your estate after your passing will pass down to more distant relatives. For this reason alone, its important for blended families to set up a plan and will, to ensure that all your children, biological, step, and adopted, can have inheritance.

If you are a single parent with sole custody and have concerns about the other parent, whether that is abusive or absent, you can create a legally valid will. This should include:

  • witness statements
  • name of guardian who has a previous relationship with child
  • how you want your child raised (clearly stating crime-free and drug-free zone if needed)
  • state that you give up the attorney-client agreement with your divorce attorney or an attorney that has defended you with a case against the other parent so they may use any proof they have
  • also, state that your money may be used in a custody battle if needed for your child’s best interest

Parenting Plans

When it comes to a parenting plan and estate planning if you die the other parent will be asked to take care of the child regardless of a previous parenting plan.

You cannot keep a child away from another parent after you die unless there is a plausible reason in the court’s eyes. This means they would need to be an unfit parent AND the child’s welfare is in danger. Just like you, the biological parent has the same rights to your child. Even with a guardian named in your will, the parent will still hold rights to your child’s care.

Many families these days have dealt with Divorce and parenting plans.  With a little bit of help, patience, and planning we can help you figure out your estate plan and in so doing, protect your family.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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