Leaving an Estate to Minor Children in Connecticut

By Tom Streissguth

Connecticut probate law allows you to leave property to anyone, including minor children. However, a minor child won't be able to control the assets she inherits until she is 18. A custodian must handle the inherited money or property on behalf of the minor until the child reaches adulthood. Similarly, if you place assets in a trust for the benefit of a minor child, a trustee will control the assets until the child comes of age.

Connecticut probate law allows you to leave property to anyone, including minor children. However, a minor child won't be able to control the assets she inherits until she is 18. A custodian must handle the inherited money or property on behalf of the minor until the child reaches adulthood. Similarly, if you place assets in a trust for the benefit of a minor child, a trustee will control the assets until the child comes of age.

Naming a Custodian

You may leave property for the heirs of your choosing; there is no minimum age for inheriting property. If you are drawing up a will in Connecticut -- where the age of majority is 18 -- the state's probate law allows you to choose a custodian for a minor and for any property you're leaving to the minor. State law sets out very specific language that you must include in your will when naming custodian. It's a good idea to consult a local attorney or use an online legal document provider to ensure that your will contains the necessary and appropriate language. You may also nominate a substitute custodian, who will receive the minor's property in case the first custodian dies, resigns or is unable to carry out the terms of the will.

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Custodians and Transfers

If you leave property to a minor child in your will, but you don't name a custodian, Connecticut law allows the executor you name in the will to choose one. This could be the child's parent or guardian, a relative, trusted friend, or an attorney or financial adviser who is capable of handling the assets on behalf of the minor. Connecticut law gives a custodian or guardian the right to transfer assets to another adult or to a trust company for the benefit of the minor, but the probate court must approve all such transfers that exceed $5,000.

Trusts for Minors

You also have the option of drawing up a trust, a useful and central item in many estate plans. When you create a trust, you appoint a trustee to manage the assets for the beneficiaries you name in the trust document. A valid trust allows your heirs to receive property without the delay and costs of probate court, although a trust will not avoid federal and Connecticut estate taxes. There are different types of trusts that are specifically designed to serve minors who inherit property. A "spendthrift" trust, for example, allows a trustee to control distributions to a child who may be financially irresponsible, while a "special needs" trust provides medical care and other needs for a child with a disability.

Intestate Succession

If you die without a will, which is known as dying "intestate," your estate is distributed according to Connecticut “intestate succession” laws, which provide that if you have a spouse and children, your spouse is entitled to the first $100,000 of your estate and half the remainder, while the children inherit the remaining portion. However, if you have a spouse and at least one child who is not the natural child of that spouse, then the estate is divided 50-50 between your spouse and all your children. If you don't have a spouse and you have not appointed a custodian or guardian, the court will appoint one to handle the assets passing to any minor children.

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Does a Lawyer Have to Set Up a Trust Account for a Minor Beneficiary?

References

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