What Are Guardianships and Trusts for Children in Maryland?

Parents can prepare for the worst-case scenario, their untimely deaths, by setting up a trust or appointing a guardian for their children in Maryland.

While guardianships and trusts are different, both can provide support for children when their parents pass away unexpectedly. A guardian is generally appointed by a parent in their will. This person will then take care of a minor child if their parent dies. Guardians should be financially and emotionally capable of looking after a child. Trusts can be created for any number of reasons, whether to financially support a child in case of a parent’s death, or provide them with assets when they reach adulthood, whether their parents are alive or not. Making a plan for the safety and well-being of your child in the event of your incapacity or death is important so that your child’s future is secured.

For help from our Maryland wills and estate planning lawyers, call Rice, Murtha & Psoras now at (410) 694-7291.

Understanding Guardianships and Trusts for Children in Maryland

As a parent, you want to ensure your child has the necessary support and guidance throughout their life, especially if you pass away unexpectedly. To do this, you can set up a trust or appoint a guardian for your child. While both trusts and guardianships can protect and support children, they are not the same.


Most parents appoint guardians to take care of their children and make decisions for their children in their stead if they pass away prematurely. This is different from custody, as you are not giving away custody of your child, but making a contingency plan should your child require parental guidance, whether temporarily or permanently. For example, parents can appoint guardians of their children if they are taking an extended vacation. They can also name guardians in their wills to ensure their children are taken care of by a trusted family member or friend in case they pass away. If you pass away, the guardian you appoint to your child can adopt your child, although this might not be necessary. Parents can also appoint guardians in case of incapacity. For example, if you fall into a coma and cannot make decisions for your child or take care of them, appointing a guardian before that event can ensure your child is properly taken care of.

When considering who will become your child’s guardian in case of your death or other circumstance, choosing someone capable of financially and emotionally supporting your child is important. Most people choose grandparents and other relatives, like their siblings, to be guardians. You can also choose someone unrelated to you, like a close friend.

Guardians appointed by parents are separate from guardians ad litem. The court may appoint a guardian ad litem if a child wishes to sue their parent or a parent did not appoint a guardian for their child before their death. Although the court will seek to place a child with relatives, such as grandparents, aunts, or uncles, if there is not a viable familial placement for a child and a parent did not appoint a guardian before their death, the child might be placed in foster care.


A trust is totally separate from a guardianship. Using a trust, a trustee, often a parent, can manage assets intended for a child in the future. A beneficiary, the child, might then take ownership of a trust upon reaching a certain age or life milestone, such as getting married or graduating college. Parents can also attach contingencies to trusts for their children. For example, you can make it so your child only becomes the owner of a trust when they turn 21 if you would like.

Similar to guardianships, parents can set up trusts so that their children have support in case of their premature death. You can appoint a trustee, who might also be your child’s appointed guardian, to manage the trust until your child reaches a certain age, most likely adulthood. Trusts are useful for all children, but especially disabled children, whether they be minors or adults, so that there are funds designated for their medical care or other expenses should their parents pass away.

Setting Up Trusts and Appointing Guardians for Children in Maryland

Whether you want to set up a trust or appoint a guardian for your child in Maryland, you must follow certain procedural steps to ensure your wishes for your child are honored following your death.

Our Annapolis wills and estate planning lawyers can include the identity of the person you wish to become the guardian of your minor child upon your death in your last will and testament. If you already have a will and want to amend it to appoint a guardian, you must do so by executing a codicil in Maryland. A person will likely not become a guardian of a child if the child has a living and capable parent.

To make a trust for your child in Maryland, you must execute a document called a Declaration of Trust. Legal ownership of the assets or property that will be put into the trust must be named in the declaration. The trustee must then accept the assets. The grantor, or the person making the trust for their child, can also be the trustee while they are living. In the document, explain your wishes for the trust. If you do not want your child to gain ownership of the trust until they graduate college or reach a certain age, include those conditions in the document. Owning a separate bank account in the name of the trust is best to avoid confusion. If property or real estate is included in the trust, retitle the ownership of the property to reflect that.

Call Our Maryland Lawyers for Help Writing Your Will Today

To have our attorneys assess your case for free, call the Baltimore wills and estate planning lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291.