Recently, my son and I have been reading the Harry Potter books together. As I explore the wizarding world, I cannot help but notice some estate planning and estate administrations lessons throughout the book. There are also stark differences between “Wizard law” and Maryland Law.
As fans of the series fans all know, Harry Potter was an orphan at the age of 1 after his parents were killed by the most powerful dark wizard of the era, Voldemort. This left him in the care of his aunt and uncle, Petunia and Vernon Dursely. Here is where we encounter the first big question I have as an estate planning attorney. Who had the authority to decide that the Dursley’s would become Harry’s guardians?
Throughout the book, there is never any mention of a Last Will and Testament written by Harry’s parents. Later, we find out that Professor Albus Dumbledore made the decision to bring Harry to the Dursely home because of the wizard charm Harry’s mother had used to protect her son while in their home. We also learn that Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black was a clear choice to be guardian.
This is in stark contrast to the law in Maryland where a school headmaster certainly does not have the authority to unilaterally decide a minor child’s guardian if the parents pass away. In Maryland, that is the decision of the probate court. However, there is a mechanism for parents to decide who will be the guardian of their minor children. Here in the muggle (non-magical) world, we use a traditional Last Will and Testament to dictate who would be the executor of our estate, the distribution of our assets and name the guardians of any minor children.
Despite the differences, there are some similarities. Since we do not know of any estate planning documents left by Harry’s parents, the decision comes from a third party, much like it would a probate judge. This is the risk for anyone choosing not to have a Last Will and Testament in Maryland. The fate of any minor children could be left up to the court system and may not be the person you would choose to raise your children.
If you do not want a powerful wizard or a probate judge deciding who will care for your children if you pass away, it is important to create a legal plan which includes a Last Will and Testament. Contact your local muggle estate planning attorney today so we can provide you with expert guidance.
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