ANNAPOLIS – A Mitchellville woman is fighting to keep her dead son’s $8 million estate from the boy’s father, who she said failed to make any support payments while the child was alive.
Tasha Jimason said it isn’t fair for a deadbeat dad to inherit money from the death of their son, Christopher, who suffered from multiple disabilities since birth.
But under current state law, non-supporting and absentee parents are entitled to 50 percent of a child’s estate, which has led to a lengthy court battle over Christopher’s estate.
“It really breaks my heart to watch my daughter trying to cope with the loss of her baby and the shameless greed of the non-supporting father,” said Tasha’s mother, Burnetta Jimason, in testimony to the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee last week.
But David W. Thompson was not a deadbeat parent, his attorney said, without elaboration. And Stuart P. Postow said his client has parental rights, too, even though Thompson and Jimason were never married.
“He’s the father and she’s the mother — that’s what’s listed on the birth certificate, isn’t it?” he asked.
After Christopher’s 1996 death at age 3, his estate won $8 million in a medical malpractice lawsuit stemming from his birth.
Tasha Jimason said Thompson was absent for most of Christopher’s short life.
“My mother and my sister helped me care for him all his life,” she told the committee on Tuesday.
The Jimasons were testifying in support of a bill that would make it impossible for non-supporting parents to inherit any part of a deceased minor’s estate.
Under the bill, a parent who is more than 60 days delinquent in child support payments would no longer be eligible for any of the child’s benefits. They would also forfeit their rights to the estate if the child died.
Burnetta Jimason said parents who do not make support payments while their child is alive can face garnishment of their wages, interception of taxes, a bad credit record and possible imprisonment. The current law, which allows them a share of the child’s estate, “certainly sends the wrong message to non- supporting deadbeat parents.”
“Imagine, after such a painful loss, how heartbreaking it must be to go through an overwhelming, lengthy court battle with someone who was not financially supportive, or instrumental in the development of the child,” she said.
Sen. Delores Kelley, D-Baltimore, said that while she supports the thrust of the bill, she has concerns about the way it is written. It does not make allowances for a parent who becomes disabled or is temporarily unemployed, for example.
“I think you may get some parents under the bill that you really didn’t mean to include,” Kelley said.
But Sen. Decatur “Bucky” Trotter, D-Prince George’s, said the main objective of the bill is to protect responsible parents.
“We need to reward those parents who do the work” that it takes to care for a child, said Trotter, who sponsored the bill.
The bill would take effect Oct. 1, 1998, but would also require that life insurance policies written before then be updated to comply with the new law as they are renewed.