Depending on one’s family circumstances, In-Laws may
factor as either a more or less important consideration in planning one’s
estate.   These persons include your
children’s own spouses and your spouse’s own parents and siblings.  In-Laws are important for various
reasons.  First, they may have inheritance
rights in regards to your blood relatives’ estates.  Second, they have influence over your blood
relatives.  And, third, they may have
become important to you personally based on your own relationship to them.  Let us examine how one’s in-laws are a factor
to be considered in estate planning.

In-laws may be either a positive or negative factor
in helping you decide how to proceed with your estate plan.  On the bright side, In-laws who are
trustworthy, capable and willing might have a possible helpful role in
assisting in the administration of your affairs.  That assistance might be either for your own
benefit or the benefit of someone else.
For example, one might decide to name an in-law as his or her
alternative agent and/or alternative successor trustee to act for his or her
benefit under a power of attorney and trust, respectively, if and when one became
disabled.  In such situations, I often
find that if an in-law is so named as a possible alternative it is in case other
blood relatives are unable to fulfill that role. 

Another scenario where an In-Law might assist
involves a hypothetical brother who find it either necessary or beneficial to leave
his disabled sister’s inheritance in further trust and not outright to the sister.  That might be so if the sister is receiving Medi-Cal
at a skilled nursing facility.  Then the sister’s
at-home spouse might act as trustee of a special needs trust and so receive the
sister’s inheritance to prevent disqualification from needs-based benefits. 

Also, consider the grandparents of an under-age
(minor) grandchild who inherits in place of their deceased child.  The grandparents may decide to name the
grandchild’s surviving parent (i.e., their deceased child’s own surviving
spouse) to control their grandchild’s inheritance.

On the darker side, however, one’s In-Laws might
sometimes present a real concern.  This
might be due to strained family relations and/or the in-law’s own personal
characteristics.  For example, in such a
case one might well be concerned that any inheritance left outright to a blood
relative (such as one’s child) might come under the negative undue influence of
that child’s spouse.  In the extreme, consider
the unfortunate parent of a weak-willed child who is married to a manipulating
and dissolute spouse.  That same parent
might decide it best to not leave the child an inheritance outright but to keep
such inheritance in a trust managed by someone dependable as trustee for the
child’s benefit.  Otherwise, if left
outright to the child, that inheritance may be lost one way or another due to
the self-serving manipulation of the child’s spouse.  Furthermore, that same parent is unlikely to
wish to name that weak willed child as successor trustee lest that child’s
spouse again manipulate or frustrate the administration of the trust to the
detriment of all concerned.

Lastly, on a positive note, many people often choose
to leave something to a favored daughter-in-law or son-in-law as a token of
their affection.  Such as, a
daughter-in-law may be allowed to participate in selecting some items of
jewelry, or a son-in-law may be given some items of personal property (e.g.,
golf clubs or a gun collection).
Hopefully your In-Laws have
enriched your life and the lives of your loved ones, thus endearing themselves
in your own heart.


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“Serving Lake and Mendocino Counties for nineteen years, the Law Office of Dennis Fordham focuses on legacy and estate planning, trust and probate administration, and special needs planning. We are here for you. 870 South Main Street Lakeport, California 95453-4801. Phone: 707-263-3235.”