What Happens to Your Assets When Minor Children Are the Beneficiaries Under a Will?

by Rob Jennings
Minor children cannot legally manage their own inheritance.

Minor children cannot legally manage their own inheritance.

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Parents often decide to create wills in order to provide for their children after their death. However, there are special considerations when you have minor children as compared to adult children. Minors cannot legally manage their inheritance. Property guardians or trustees handle the property for them until they reach the age of majority.

Will

When someone dies and has a will, his estate will be represented by either an executor or administrator. The representative is responsible for settling all necessary estate matters. These responsibilities include arranging the funeral, reviewing the will, overseeing the preparation of a final tax return, settling debts and distributing assets. Assets are distributed to the beneficiaries, people who receive benefits from the estate.

Minors

If you designate your children as beneficiaries of your estate and they are minors, they cannot legally manage their money until they reach the age of majority. Typically, children are considered minors until age 18 or 21, depending on the state in which the child lives. You will need to designate a guardian for your minor children. A guardian can make not only their personal decisions but also their financial ones, including how to manage their inherited money.

Guardians of Estate

If you are naming a minor as a beneficiary, you will need to consider who will manage the money. You can name a guardian to manage the money for your children or create a trust to be administered by a trustee. It is important to have one or more guardians named in your will for your children. A guardian is responsible for the care and well-being of your children in the event of your death. You may want to appoint two guardians: one to manage the money (sometimes called “guardian of the estate”) and a second to care for the health and well-being of your children (sometimes called “guardian of the person”). A single guardian may not be proficient at both managing money and caring for your children.

Trust

Sometimes people create trusts for the benefit of their children. Trusts may make sense for larger dollar amounts or if you want more control over the uses and timing of the distributions. When creating a trust, parents can specify how and when the funds in the account are to be used. For example, they can specify that they want the money spent towards their child's education. A trustee manages the money in the account for the children’s benefit according to the terms of the trust. However, the trustee is not responsible for the care of the children. Most states have adopted the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act. This act allows people to transfer money to someone they designate as the custodian for a minor. The custodian holds the property until the minor reaches the age of majority. Before the child reaches adulthood, the custodian can use the property for the benefit of the minor.