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  • Marla Roeser

Will Your In-Laws Replace You?

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

Family is everything. But what if you have a family member that would be unsuitable to raise your child?

Often we think about money when we think of estate planning, however, planning includes naming who is in control of everything you own and everything you are responsible for (including your parental rights over your children).

Many parents are familiar with how this works, but just as review: until your children reach the age of majority (age 18 years in Maryland) or are Court emancipated, they do not have the right to sign contracts, open bank accounts, or make medical decisions. Until then, the minor's rights are controlled by their parent or Guardian.

A Guardian is a Court appointed adult who is accountable for managing the child's living situation and assets (including government benefits available for the child). Technically, the Guardian of the Estate (who manages money) and Guardian of the Person (who manages living situation) are not required to be the same person. In special circumstances, you may see these jobs separated, but generally a single person is appointed by the Court to take both jobs.

The Court must be involved with appointing the Guardian of a child who has lost a parent (or if the parent is unavailable to act for some reason). There are default laws for the Court to use to decide who gets to take the job. This rule is a list of relatives of the natural parents. The highest person on the list who asks to take the job is normally given it after a thorough investigation and hearing any objections from other relatives. Thus, if you don't name your preferred guardians, there is a long list of relatives of natural parents (including your favorite in-law) who may end up as Guardian.

In Maryland, the place to name your Guardians is in your will. Even if you have a trust, having a "pour-over" will can be important for many reasons, especially to name your preferred Guardians. Keeping your list of Guardians updated may change more often than other decisions, so you can know just changing this is a very small update that only requires changing the will.

Your will is just one aspect of your estate plan. Don't delay in making your Estate Plan. Schedule a complimentary phone call with me and let's begin the conversation today.

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